Impact of Human Activity on Protected Areas: A case study of Nech Sar National Park in Ethiopia
Protected areas play a significant role in conserving biodiversity and essential ecosystem services that help in providing sustainable development opportunities. As the world’s human population increases, however, these ecologically vital resources are threatened due to over-utilization of their resources. Nech Sar National Park of Ethiopia being one of them, is currently threatened due to the impact of human activities. Hence, this research bridges the knowledge gap on the impact of human activities on the natural capitals of the park. To examine this, ecological surveys were conducted by deploying transect lines along with experimental plots. Information was also collected from the indigenous communities of the park and stakeholders by making use of focus group discussions, interviews and questionnaires. Satellite images were used to assess the impact of human activity on the aquatic ecosystems of the park. Examination of the natural regeneration status showed that, the ground water vegetation of the park is not maintaining the natural regeneration of trees. According to the results of the Shannon Diversity Index, the woody vegetation species diversity of the park is being degraded due to deforestation. Findings showed that on average 824 matured trees are being cleared on daily basis to satisfy the household energy demands of Arba Minch town and the nearby inhabitants. The satellite image analysis indicated that, Lake Chamo lost 2,465.46 hectares of its surface area coverage in between the years of 1985 – 2015. The findings have showed more than 70% of the grassland areas of the park is highly endangered by the alien plant species (Prosopis, Abutilon, etc.). The wild animals are less adaptable to these invasive plants and are being affected in sustaining their life in the ecosystem. Due to human-wildlife conflict, the number of wild animals is also shrinking from time to time. Swayne’s Hartebeest for instance, may face local extinction since the remaining two individuals were believed to be male. The study also confirmed that, local communities of the protected area are neglected from participating in the management and governance of the park and this enhanced the lack of ownership feeling by the local communities. On top of this, the top-down governance approach of the park authorities who are based in the capital at about 510 km away from the park is also another bottle-neck that affect the sustainable development of the park since administrative power is not shared for the two regional states which border the park. Therefore, as the park is presently going through immense human interference, this study contributes to the management and governance of protected areas by formulating the integrated strategic approaches which includes community participation in the governance and management of the park, provision of alternative energy and livelihood opportunities which can help the sustainable development of the park’s ecosystem services. The study also recommends further research in the areas of invasive plants and detailed analysis on the impact of human activities on the aquatic ecosystems of the protected area.
- PhD