Land-use and land-cover dynamics in response to changes in climatic, biological and socio-political forces : the case of southwestern Ethiopia uri icon

abstract

  • Few studies of land-use/land-cover change provide an integrated assessment of the driving forces and consequences of that change, particularly in Africa. Our objectives were to determine how driving forces at different scales change over time, how these forces affect the dynamics and patterns of land use/land cover, and how land-use/land-cover change affects ecological properties at the landscape scale. To accomplish these objectives, we first developed a way to identify the causes and consequences of change at a landscape scale by integrating tools from ecology and the social sciences and then applied these methods to a case study in Ghibe Valley, southwestern Ethiopia. Maps of land-use/land-cover change were created from aerial photography and Landsat TM imagery for the period, 1957-1993. A method called 'ecological time lines' was developed to elicit landscape-scale explanations for changes from long-term residents. Cropland expanded at twice the speed recently (1987-1993) than two decades ago (1957-1973), but also contracted rapidly between 1973-1987. Rapid land-use/land cover change was caused by the combined effects of drought and migration, changes in settlement and land tenure policy, and changes in the severity of the livestock disease, trypanosomosis, which is transmitted by the tsetse fly. The scale of the causes and consequences of land-use/land-cover change varied from local to sub-national (regional) to international and the links between causes and consequences crossed scales. At the landscape scale, each cause affected the location and pattern of land use/land cover differently. The contraction of cropland increased grass biomass and cover, woody plant cover, the frequency and extent of savanna burning, and the abundance of wildlife. With recent control of the tsetse fly, these ecological changes are being reversed. These complex patterns are discussed in the context of scaling issues and current conceptual models of land-use/land-cover change.

publication date

  • 2000
  • 2000