Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Forests and Pollination Services across an Agricultural Landscape

Massey Marks, Ashley; Reynolds, Travis W.; Hamann, Sara; Wassie Eshete, Alemayehu; Lowman, Meg D.; Nogué, Sandra; Willis, Kathy J. and Bhagwat, Shonil A. (2023). Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Forests and Pollination Services across an Agricultural Landscape. In: Borde, Radhika; Ormaby, Alison A; Awoyemi, Stephen M and Gosler, Andrew G eds. Religion and Nature Conservation: Global Case Studies. Oxford, UK: Taylor and Francis.



The agricultural landscape of northern Ethiopia is peppered with small green circles of forest. These forest fragments surround circular churches of the Eastern Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Sacred natural sites such as these church forests can provide benefits to people, or ecosystem services. An Ethiopian farmer reported decreased crop yields after a church forest was cleared in South Gondar. We asked, what is the extent of cropland that falls within the pollination zones of church forests? How might pollination services provided by church forests contribute to local livelihoods? We mapped 1,173 church forests ranging in size from 0.09 to 254.94 ha. We used honeybee foraging distance to make ‘donuts’ around the church forests to represent pollination zones. Then, we overlaid these donuts with croplands to determine the areas where crop yields may be increased due to pollination by honeybees from the church forests. We found that pollination zones surrounding these sacred natural sites cover up to 282,866 ha (~83%) of croplands and 19% of South Gondar. Due to their small size, forest fragments like sacred forests can be overlooked by policy makers. The benefits they provide can extend well beyond their individual footprints, especially when they are clustered in the landscape.

Viewing alternatives


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions
No digital document available to download for this item

Item Actions