The impact of land use/land cover change on ecosystem services in the central highlands of Ethiopia
Abstract Ecosystems provide a wide range of services that are important for human-well being. Estimating the multiple services obtained from ecosystems is vital to support decision-making processes at different levels. This study analyzes land use/land cover (LU/LC) dynamics over four decades (i.e., 1973, 1986, 2001, 2015) to assess its impact on ecosystem services. Ecosystem Service Values (ESV) was determined using LU/LC analysis and established global data base. LU/LC analysis showed that forest cover reduced by 54.2% during study period; and settlement, bare land, shrub land and cultivated land increased considerably. The study indicates that due to forest cover change from 1973 to 2015, approximately US$ 3.69 million of ecosystem services values was lost. Among the ecosystem services reduced were: nutrient cycling, provision of raw material and erosion control. The use of LU/LC data along with established global ESV data sets reduce the costs of ground data collection, and help in tracking of past environmental changes and acquisition of quick and reliable results that can be used for decision making processes. We believe that the results obtained can be helpful in designing payment for environmental services and rural development policies. Highlights In this paper we first analyzed land use/land cover dynamics by the use of ArcGIS for over four decades (1973–2015) in the study area. Based on the results of LULC dynamics as an input, we estimated ecosystem service values (ESV) for different land cover types with the use of global ecosystem service value data sets established. We generally found that forest land decreased and other land uses increased at the expense of forest land. Ecosystem service value also decreased in response to forest land use change. As a result the overall ecosystem services of the study area progressively decreased over the study period indicating the loss of important ecosystem services such as erosion control, genetic resources and water supply. This calls for an appropriate policy formulation such as payment for ecosystem services to conserve the existing resource and restore landscapes with forests. We believe that such studies are very vital in countries like Ethiopia where ground data collection is expensive and difficult to obtain data for previous years.
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