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Large-scale land acquisitions and ecosystem services: Impacts on natural woodlands and energy security in Ethiopia

Authors: Audrey Culver Smith*, University of Florida, Reza Khatami, University of Florida, Carly Muir, University of Florida, Jane Southworth, University of Florida, Dan Brown, School of Environment and Forest Sciences, College of Environment, University of Washingtondan
Topics: Land Use and Land Cover Change, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Natural Resources
Keywords: Large-scale land acquisitions, coupled human-natural systems, land-use land cover change, ecosystem services, energy security, natural forests, NDVI, time series analysis, Ethiopia
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In Ethiopia, the use of wood and other biomass for fuel and the expansion of farming into natural woodlands has fostered a high rate of deforestation. Since the early 2000s, the government of Ethiopia has encouraged private investment in large-scale commercial agriculture to promote economic growth, agricultural productivity, and technology transfer. These land transactions, or large-scale land acquisitions (LSLAs), represent changes in land tenure and land use as small-scale farms and grazing lands, woodlands and other natural land cover are converted to industrialized agriculture. It is hypothesized that resulting intensified agricultural practices, expansion of cultivated land, and displacement of smallholder farmers will not only directly affect land cover and ecosystem services within the transacted areas but also have spillover effects on agricultural land and on woody savanna vegetation and forest cover in surrounding uncultivated areas surrounding transacted parcels. This study uses remote sensing data to quantify change in natural woodland cover in Ethiopia since the occurrence of LSLAs. Land cover classes of interest, forest and woody savanna vegetation, are derived from land cover maps produced with random forest supervised classification for two time-steps (i.e., pre- and post-LSLAs) and analyzed for within-class change using MODIS-derived NDVI time series data. NDVI time series data is analyzed with land transaction location and ancillary data for a preliminary assessment of the effects of LSLAs on natural forest cover and woody savanna vegetation in the context of ecosystem services and human well-being in Ethiopia.

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