Forest clearance and regrowth in northern Ethiopia during the last 3000 years

Iain Darbyshire, Henry Lamb*, Mohammed Umer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Citations (SciVal)


Pollen and charcoal analysis of sediment cores from two lakes in the highlands of northern Ethiopia provide evidence that the vegetation has changed in response to human impact during the last 3000 years. The natural, pre-disturbance vegetation of the area was Podocarpus-Juniperus forest. At about 500 Bc, following Semitic immigration to northern Ethiopia, the forests were cleared and replaced by a secondary vegetation of Dodonaea scrub and grassland that persisted for 1800 years. Grasslands were dominant from about AD 1200 to 1400, probably as a result of further intensification of grazing, perhaps exacerbated by drought. Juniperus forest, with Olea and Celtis, then expanded from AD 1400 to 1700, possibly because of drought-induced depopulation followed by increased rainfall. Deforestation and soil erosion has again intensified during the last three centuries. Since forest regrowth was possible after 1800 years of human impact, northern Ethiopia should again be capable of supporting forest under appropriate land management.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-546
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2003


  • Africa
  • Ethiopia
  • Forest clearance
  • Forest regrowth
  • Human impact
  • Lake sediments
  • Late Holocene
  • Pollen
  • Vegetation history


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