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Mass flowering and death of bamboo: a potential threat to biodiversity and livelihoods in Ethiopia

Demissew Sertse, Tesfaye Disasa, Kassahun Bekele, Mehari Alebachew, Yared Kebede, Negash Eshete, Sintayehu Eshetu

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J. Bio. Env. Sci.1(5), 16-25, October 2011


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Flowering and hence seed setting is the most infrequent phenomenon in most bamboo species. Seed setting in bamboos most often occurs gregariously for all the plants irrespective of age and/or location within and among populations. Seed setting in most bamboos is followed by total death of all the plants, which might havoc the whole ecosystem and lives dependent on bamboos. Such flowering in bamboos occurs in an interval of 10 to 120 years depending on the species. Ethiopia is represented by two naturally growing bamboo species; the highlander Arundinaria alpina and the lowlander Oxytenanthera abyssinica. With these two species, Ethiopia contributesthe larger fraction in Africa accounting for about 67% of bamboo coverage of the continent. Recently, the rare event bamboo flowering has occurred in Ethiopia covering more than 85% of the lowland bamboo in all three zones of Benishangul Gumz and Awi zone of Amhara regional states and 60% of highland bamboo in Dawro zone of Southern Nation and Nationalities regional state. Despite the fact that flowering thereby seed setting is a blessing phenomenon for a more genetically diverse next generation, it usually leads to death of bamboo plants which might threaten the entire ecosystem and livelihoods of these areas. This paper presents details of bamboo populations which are currently in seed setting in Ethiopia and potential consequences compared with experiences in bamboo species from other countries. The paper further provides measures and directives to be considered in order to save and regain the bamboo populations.


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