Published: 15 March 2017 at 15:28
Research led by Anglia Ruskin academic shows impact of deforestation in Ethiopia
New research shows that coffee and timber plantations are providing a safety net for butterfly species in Ethiopia, as the country’s tropical forests are being destroyed at an alarming rate.
The research, carried out by academics from Anglia Ruskin University, the University of York and Jimma University in Ethiopia, has been published in Biotropica, the journal of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation.
Unlike in the UK where butterflies are associated with open habitats such as meadows and pasture, tropical butterflies have a much higher dependence on trees. Ethiopia has 376 species of tropical butterfly, many of which are endemic to the country.
Over a quarter of Ethiopia’s mountain forest has been lost since the turn of the millennium, with agriculture and logging the main driving forces. This new study is one of the first to look at how wildlife is faring across these human-altered landscapes in Ethiopia.
The research found that butterfly communities in coffee and timber plantations were dominated by forest species, sharing 90% of their species with the natural forest. On average, there were 14 different species recorded per hectare in the forest compared to 10 in the coffee and timber plantations. This figure fell to three species per hectare in cropland.
The average total number of butterflies recorded per hectare in cropland was only six, compared to 35 in timber plantations, 37 in natural forests and 41 in coffee plantations.
Dr Olivia Norfolk, Lecturer in Animal & Environmental Biology at Anglia Ruskin University, said: