Population status of Boswellia papyrifera woodland and prioritizing its conservation interventions using multi-criteria decision model in northern Ethiopia

Heliyon. 2020 Oct 3;6(10):e05139. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e05139. eCollection 2020 Oct.


Boswellia papyrifera woodland provides considerable economic, ecological and socio-cultural benefits in the drylands of Ethiopia. However, its populations are in rapid decline due to human pressure and environmental degradation. As a consequence, the species is now considered being endangered, demanding an urgent conservation intervention to sustain its existence. This study was carried out in the Abergele district, northern Ethiopia, with objectives to characterize the current population structure of B. papyrifera and prioritize its potential conservation intervention alternatives using Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) modelling techniques. The woody species related data were collected from 33 sample plots randomly established in the study area. Data related to the potential intervention alternatives and their evaluating criteria were collected from experts, personal experiences and intensive literature reviews, and then validated using stakeholders' focus group discussion. Four candidate alternatives were then considered for the AHP: 1) free grazing with no tapping resting period (FGNTR), 2) free grazing with a rotational tapping (FGRT), 3) area exclosure with medium tapping resting period (AEMTR), and 4) area exclosure with long tapping resting period (AELTR). The results showed that the population structure of B. papyrifera is unstable and is characterized by low density (266 trees ha-1), absence of regeneration and saplings (DBH<10 cm) due to different interrelated disturbances such as overgrazing, over tapping, pests, agricultural expansion and poor managements. The overall priority ranking value of all stakeholders using the AHP techniques also indicated that AEMTR (with overall rank value of 0.352) and AELTR (0.294) as the best alternatives strategies, respectively, for sustainable B. papyrifera woodland conservation. For the success of these strategies, their economic impacts at their early implementation stages (5-10 years) should be minimized by collecting different non-timber forest products from the woodland. Continuous capacity building training on sustainable utilizations and managements of B. papyrifera woodland should also be provided for all relevant stakeholders.

Keywords: AHP model; Agricultural science; Agronomy; Area exclosure; Conservation alternatives; Ecology; Environmental science; Frankincense tree; Free grazing; Over tapping; Regeneration; Stakeholders.