Long-term resilience, bush encroachment patterns and local knowledge in a Northeast African savanna

Graciela Gil-Romera, Henry F. Lamb, David Turton, Miguel Sevilla-Callejo, Mohammed Umer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (SciVal)


Bush encroachment is a significant phenomenon in savanna environments as it affects wildlife and local livelihoods by preventing new pasture generation. In this article we present a 2000-year record of vegetation change in the Dara range of the Mago National Park, southwestern Ethiopia, an area inhabited by Mursi agro-pastoralists. We use an interdisciplinary approach to understand whether bush encroachment in this area is a recent event or a transitional state of the savanna and describe the local understanding of encroachment as a species-specific process. The vegetation record was obtained from a fossil hyrax midden, a type of sediment already used in Southern Africa but never before in East Africa. Six encroaching phases, led by Capparaceae and Grewia, were found over the last two millennia. The system proved to be resilient, with alternating open and encroached phases, and showed a non-linear response to environmental change, thereby fitting the control theory hypothesis for hysteresis loops. Determining the thresholds conditioning the system's resilience could help to improve savanna management for both local people and National Park authorities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)612-626
Number of pages15
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
Issue number4
Early online date04 Jun 2010
Publication statusPublished - 01 Oct 2010


  • Africa
  • Ethiopia
  • Hyrax
  • Indigenous knowledge
  • Pollen


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