My primary reason for this trip to Ethiopia is to lend a hand to a team of researchers who are working to conserve the biodiversity of Ethiopia’s church forests. Ethiopia’s Christian heritage is about as old as the religion itself. The land that churches are built on are considered holy land and are spared the harvesting of trees for building material, fuel, and agricultural land.
Some of these forests are 1,500 years old and exist as “hot spots” or reservoirs of biodiversity. We will survey the relative distribution and abundance with special focus on assessing the ecosystem services that insects provide (as pollinators, herbivores, seed dispersers, and agents for seed germination, and nutrient cycling). With this data, we will make recommendations for conservation and management of these last remnants of Afro-montane forests of Ethiopia.
Another important part of our work here is to empower Sunday school children as the future stewards of these forests. We will engage children in the observations, surveys, and appreciation of their local insects. Because this conservation priority, the sites that were selected are adjacent to elementary schools with active Sunday school programs.