Changes in soil properties following the establishment of exclosures in Ethiopia: a meta-analysis

Getahun Yakob Edo, Jo U. Smith, Dali R. Nayak, Paul D. Hallett, Euan Phimister, Wolde Mekuria* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
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Community-led watershed development activities, including the establishment of exclosures (areas where both livestock and farming activities are excluded) on degraded communal grazing land, have become a common practice in Ethiopia since the 1990s. However, it is not yet fully understood how these exclosures change soil organic carbon and total soil nitrogen in different soil types and under different agroecologies. A meta-analysis using data gathered from the most relevant peer reviewed articles from Ethiopian exclosure systems was conducted to assess the variation in the effects of exclosures on soil carbon and nitrogen and to investigate the factors controlling change. The results demonstrate that after 16 years, exclosures can increase soil organic carbon and total soil nitrogen up to an effect size greater than two. This is moderated by soil type, exclosure age, landscape position and agroecology. More effective restoration of soil carbon was observed in less developed Leptosols and Cambisols than in more developed Luvisols, and in drier than more humid agroecologies. The results suggest that soil type and agroecology should be taken into consideration when planning and implementing exclosures on degraded communal grazing land. The findings of this study provide base line information for the future expansion of exclosures, and guide where to focus implementation. They also provide criteria to be used when planning and establishing exclosures to restore soil carbon and nitrogen. In addition, the results generated through this meta-analysis provide better understanding of the spatial and temporal variation of the effectiveness of exclosures to restore soil carbon and nitrogen.
Original languageEnglish
Article number823026
Number of pages14
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Early online date31 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

This work is part of the RALENTIR (Reducing land degradation and carbon loss from Ethiopia's soils to strengthen livelihoods and resilience) project, funded by GCRF (Global Challenges Research Fund) and University of Aberdeen. We are grateful to Abeyou Wale for his assistance in developing the map of agroecological zones of Ethiopia.


  • Agroecology
  • Exclosure age
  • Grazing land
  • Restoration of degraded lands
  • Soil types


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