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The Woody Vegetation Cover of Northern Ethiopian Highlands

Paper Reviewed
Nyssen, J., Frankl, A., Haile, M., Hurni, H.,Descheemaeker, K., Crummey, D., Ritler, A., Portner, B., Nievergelt, B., Moeyersons, J., Munro, N., Deckers, J., Billi, P. and Poesen, J. 2014. Environmental conditions and human drivers for changes to north Ethiopian mountain landscapes over 145 years. Science of the Total Environment 485-486: 164-179.

Since "quantitative or spatially distributed studies of environmental change over truly long-term periods of more than 100 years are extremely rare," in the words of Nyssen et al. (2014), and in light of the recent rediscovery of large sets of historical terrestrial photographs extending back to 1868 (Nyssen et al., 2010), Nyssen et al. say they "re-photographed 361 landscapes that appear on historical photographs (1868-1994) within a 40,000 km2 study area in northern Ethiopia," after which "visible evidence of environmental changes apparent from the paired photographs was analyzed using an expert rating system."

In discussing their findings, Nyssen et al. report that "the conditions of the woody vegetation, soil and water conservation structures and land management were worse in the earlier periods compared to their present conditions." And, most important of all, they find "there has been a general tendency towards a recent increase in vegetation cover compared with any other period over the last 145 years."

In spite of what climate alarmists may claim about the supposed negative environmental effects of the historical increase in the atmosphere's CO2 concentration, the 14 scientists that worked together on this most interesting project conclude that "woody vegetation cover in the northern Ethiopian highlands ... is now at its greatest extent since 1868," as - we like to say - the CO2-induced greening of the earth continues.

Nyssen, J., Frankl, A., Munro, R.N., Billi, P. and Haile Mitiku. 2010. Digital photographic archives for environmental and historical studies: an example from Ethiopia. Scottish Geographical Journal 126: 185-207.

Reviewed 24 September 2014