The Eucalyptus Problem

The Eucalyptus Problem

On the Entoto mountain and many other places around Addis Ababa, the existing vegetation is Eucalyptus globulus. This is an Australian tree brought to Ethiopia some 100 years ago. At this past time, most of the area around the town had been deforested due to the need for wood construction and fuel. The introduction of the new species was very successful, as its speed of growing surpassed the indigenous trees. Some of the Eucalyptus on Entoto have their origin in that first phase of reforestation, but plantations continued during the last century. At present, the bulk of the Park area is covered by eucalyptus plantations. The new species is an integral part of Ethiopian history, but at the same time, it is a tree that not belongs to the Ethiopian flora.

Biodiversity:  Foreign trees often have difficulties in adjusting to their new environment. The Eucalyptus is growing apparently without trouble, but it is not capable of sexually reproducing itself, i.e. the seeds do not germinate in the Ethiopian soils. Therefore the standard procedure of introduction is the planting of seedlings.

The Eucalyptus Trees' Ground Deterioration of the Landscape.

The young trees soon start to compete very efficiently with other vegetation. It is a fast grower, easily reaching above other trees and suppressing them. At the same time, a chemical component in the leaves and roots prevents the growth of both other trees and herbs. This leads to a mono-culture with Eucalyptus as the only tree species and eventually no ground cover.  In the landscape, the Eucalyptus tree's roots often appear separated from the terrain and the rest of the soil, similar to sporadic upward-stemming root tubers but then with a limited number of periodic and minor radiating root stems. This character of the Eucalyptus tree's roots is evident in the highland landscape around these trees. Thus, the surroundings of the Eucalyptus tree appears very different from the landscape of the native Juniperus procera trees, where a showy undergrowth well cover a diverse and widespread network of soil reinforcing root networks.

The Importance of Domestic Trees

Reinforcement of Native Roots Against Erosion.

The Torrential Rains and Erosion
Erosion: Because there is no ground cover in the foreign implanted Eucalyptus forest, the only thing to hold the soil is the sporadic web of roots of the trees. The soil-holding capacity of Eucalyptus is very moderate compared with the trees initially covering the slopes of Entoto. This lack of soil stabilizing undergrowth causes severe erosion, easily observed in the water running through Addis in connection with the rainy seasons. For every rain period, the layer of fertile soil gets thinner. If nothing is done now, there will be nothing left for new vegetation in a couple of years, and the erosion will be irreversible.

Flooding:  On Entoto, every leaf and branch that has fallen to the ground is collected by people, whereas in a natural forest, organic material from leaves, wood, roots etc., is left to be decomposed in the soil. The organic matter improves the soil structure, leading to a higher infiltration rate and a much better water storage capacity.

Juniper Forest's Water Preserving versus

the Eucalyptus tree's elimination of the groundwater.

The Eucalyptus tree and its Tactical Toxicity.
A chemical component with an intricate competition-oriented toxic defence system in the leaves and roots of Eucalyptus trees prevents the growth of other trees and herbs. This chemical component leads to a mono-culture with Eucalyptus as the only tree species and eventually no ground cover. This chemical component causes severe erosion, easily observed in the water running through Addis connected with the rainy seasons.
The Environmental danger of the Eucalyptus tree.  
Due to these shortcomings in the water preserving capacity of the Eucalyptus plantation, it cannot counterbalance the uneven distribution of rain. The result is often torrential flooding in the down-slope areas, in this case, the northern district of Addis Ababa. In August 1994, it created a fatal danger because of such overwhelming and sudden flooding.

The Australian Eucalyptus Tree 

Historical and Environmental Background.

Thus, in Ethiopia, the foreign Eucalyptus tree negatively affects Nature's and citizens' water resources and instead reject the precious deluges in dangerous torrential flooding. Areas that earlier were periodically wet and with a flora adjusted to such conditions get drained by planted Eucalyptus. Because of the poor flora in the planted Eucalyptus forest, the biodiversity of a Eucalyptus plantation is extremely low. These shortcomings from the Eucalyptus forest are not due to the Australian tree itself but its foreign introduction and incompatibility with native Ethiopian plants or organisms needed by specialized wildlife, insect and birds. The historical removal of Ethiopia's native trees depleted this unique highland landscape of natural habitat and its vital process of creating water sources.

Ethiopia's Nature and How the Country Lost its Water.
Furthermore, these past misdeeds against Ethiopia's natural forest and Nature severely wounded the prehistoric heritage by interrupting its natural and critical process of original soil creation derived from the endemic decomposing leaves and twigs. This genetically optimized process of the indigenous trees' downfall in leaves and twigs of the Ethiopian forest had the vital ability to hinder the erosive torrents' initiation and gave the soil's structure the required time to absorb deluges in this mountainous highland landscape. This historical malefactor against the original Ethiopian Nature severely weakened the county's original soil's system in its essential function to lead and assist the rainwater to the natural underground aquifers. Thus, the background to Ethiopia's groundwater loss derives its source from the decreases of the soil layers, reducing the remaining soil's ability to retain moisture and severely damaging future chances for the citizens to obtain clean household water and reintroduce indigenous species.

The Wild Forest of the Ancient
The healing capacity of an indigenous forest
The natural health and fertile beauty in this indigenous Juniper forest (40) illuminates with precision the healing capacity of a native forest but regrettably also the severe nature and habitat destruction that occurred at the introduction of the Eucalyptus tree. The importance of careful research regarding knowledge in natural science is here given a severe and evident example before any foreign species is regarded as possible for an introduction into an unfamiliar and very possibly vulnerable habitat.

The Juniper Forest of the Ancient.
Those who want a deeper Juniper forest emerges from the mist of history a concealed near 50 years old wild and original Juniperus procera woodland. This primaeval forest (40) is close to the east of point (16) but still hidden behind an elevated ridge and on the eastern slope. This native Juniper forest provides a unique insight into how nature emerged before introducing the Eucalyptus from Australia over 100 years ago.

Land Use: The bulk of the area is used as a plantation. Eucalyptus has been grown for a long time, mainly for the production of construction wood. Lately, the illegal cutting of trees has accelerated, large amounts of timber being brought out. Fallen branches for fuel-wood are collected by people living in the area, as well as outsiders. Some females are actually sweeping the ground for some single twigs.

The regular land use on this kind of soil would be cattle raising and mixed farming (Foth 1984), which can still be seen to some extent. One part in the upper eastern and another in the western is used for crops and cattle breeding.

Where the Eucalyptus has not yet ruined the ground vegetation cover, sheep are brought for grazing. There are fenced pastures for the animals, but instead, they are guarded by shepherds. Inside the proposed park area, there are about 60 households.

Already today, visitors come to Entoto for recreation purposes, as it is the only forest-like area in the vicinity of the city and the beautiful views from the mountain.

The Australian Eucalyptus Tree and its Ancient Legacy.

  • 1. It seems very strange that a tree species can be hostile and directly toxic to its surrounding nature to the extent that it eliminates the very soil layer that forms its basis and thus undermines the conditions for its future as a species.

  • 2. The reason for these strange hostile contradictions of this Australian tree's unique touch on its environment has its explanation in the unique autonomous surviving strategy of the Eucalyptus tree. The background here is the eucalyptus tree's artificial relocation and its introduced foreign export location into the Ethiopian highlands. Furthermore, derives the description of this matter from the original continental remoteness of the Eucalyptus tree's geological and genetic past within Australia.

    • 3. The distant continent of Australia's developed fauna and flora has undergone an extremely long evolutionary optimization to best adapt to the unique condition of its geological and surrounding genetic characteristics.  The Australian truly uniquely native indigenous habitat received through this remoteness its distinctive property of plant and wildlife. This remote location deeply selected the specificity of its soil and, in this, even its microbiological uniqueness.

        • 4. Australia's unique flora and fauna have developed distinctive character to become more or less toxic to its environment through separate seclusion from other continents. However, and very important in this context, Australia's organisms have in their defence system developed an equally strong resistance against these multi-folded toxicities that can be described as a type of evolutionary competition-oriented circumstances on their continent.  Furthermore, this toxicity depends on direct genetically controlled survival strategies to avoid, for example, overgrazing or a large infestation of insects or even as a tool in the competition between tree species of the ground itself.

        • 5. The Australian continent and its Eucalyptus tree appear in displaced contradictions due to continental distances of oceans magnitude to other continents. It has thus in Australia been possible to develop animal and plant species that have no direct genetic contact with the animals and vegetation of other continents. An extraordinarily long time appears here in segregated genetic enhancement for Australia's different evolution regarding its organism's optimization to elaborate the required mutation and genetic enhancement defence mechanisms against plants' toxicity. This prehistoric evolution in the genetic legacy of the very remote past in the Australian surrounding fauna and flora is unique but still mostly beyond knowledge, and for the future to research within Nature's ancestral vault. This genetic material is something to carefully, scientifically protect and seriously investigate because it may include crucial components for the future development of medicine or other completely vital research.

        • 6. Thus, the development of this tree's toxic substances has given the Eucalyptus tree increased survivability in an often very demanding environment. The Eucalyptus tree's toxicity is controlled by its DNA and protects it from overgrazing animals, parasitic or infectious organisms. However, it's possible, the Eucalyptus tree, due to its tactical toxicity, also improved capacity regarding the struggle of water and nutrients with other tree species. The contact with the toxicity of the Eucalyptus tree caused the biotope of Australia to pass through aeons of improved resistance. With an evolutionarily tempered competition due to an often fierce struggle for nutrition and water resources, the Australian vegetation received the legacy of unique genetic defences and sufficient toxic protective defence against various herbivores and other natural threats against its survival.

        • 7. The Australian eucalyptus trees are therefore optimized for the Australian continent, where they have their genetic origin but at the same time potentially directly harmful to habitats on the other continents. The geographical distance between Australia and other continents are large enough to create a different DNA fundamentally. With its enhanced DNA and tactical toxic defence system, this Australian tree will doubtless cause incompatibilities for other continents biotopes and organisms. Therefore, the Eucalyptus tree is treacherous in its silent strategy, working mechanisms from a foreign origin with an autonomous hostile DNA against other countries' unprepared organisms. Due to the different continents' biotope, the weak defence mechanisms among other continents' biotopes cause vulnerabilities against the toxicity of the Eucalyptus tree's biology. Thus, this considerable distance between Australia and other continents often leads to a very different ecology, which exposes the essential lack of sophisticated defence or resistance within other counties' native organisms' genetic constitution.

        • 8. The introduction of this Australian tree into Ethiopia over a hundred years ago inflicted these contradictions and problems. There was not enough advanced knowledge internationally in the natural sciences to understand the danger of plants or animals' exotic and alien introduction. Thus, by severe short-sightedness due to a lack of international science in ecology. Nor ruled yet for a long time the knowledge internationally about the necessary laboratory examination of plants' and animals' toxicity regarding the necessity of rigorous inspections in epidemic secured vaults, sealed by government-supervised laboratory environments before allowing any international dissemination. 

        • 9. This continental export of species is a susceptible subject that can dramatically affect several countries and ethnic groups.  The reasons for the foreign substances' diplomatic and biological sensitivity to any previously received environment are many and intimately associated with the concerned countries' economies and far-reaching health conditions.  It has long been known among science and biology that substances in the human environment have had a decisive influence on developing the present human heritage and its genome.  This knowledge of the connection between the human genome and its development in a specific biological environment directly concerns the current spread of humans to areas that lack the prehistorical opportunity to influence the international groups' human genome. This incompatibility due to the impact between the human genome and the substances of clearly foreign origin is very relevant for today's people. The contradictions in the relationship between the human genome and the new environments derive their source and explanation from an increasingly international way of life where people now in the modern time live in areas where they have not previously populated but instead arrived as the newly established ethnic groups. Similar difficulties become relevant with the export of significant biological products from distant continents to sites that have offered humans an already adapted development of their genome for their own unique biotope during a long evolutionary time.

        • 10. Concerning these human civilizations of today, with their prehistoric evolved indigenous populations, it may be required with a careful biological evaluation of the possibility of mitigating adverse effects from not human-compatible imports. These safeguards may be offered by adding refined food to the diet that counteracts the increased sensitivity to foreign substances.  In addition, a common and practical solution to neutralize the foreign substances appears with the treatment of the native population with certain minerals or vitamin supplements that may be suitable for a shorter initial period.  Thus, when considering the effect of Eucalyptus trees on the indigenous vegetation of other countries, it may cause doubt and require scientific evaluation for these effects on human health.  It is not unlikely that modern science with well-balanced control can produce the necessary substances to counteract debilitating effects from foreign plant-based substances, thereby increasing the level of science and medical knowledge. Thus, a potential threat for a native human population is also providing this culture with the motivation for scientific advancement and increasing the possibility of enriching this culture with a stronger and more prosperous civilization.

        Indigenous species

        There is also an area in the southeast containing junipers, but fuelwood collectors face a significant threat. On the steep hillsides and in the gorges and gullies in the lower part, there still remain trees of indigenous species like Juniperus procera, Podocarpus gracilior, Dovyalis abyssinica, Olea europea var, Africana, and Ficus sp.

        A few solitary indigenous trees stand in open areas, e.g. Hagenia abyssinica and Hypericum sp. There are beautiful meadows in the upper eastern part with a high diversity of herbs, and several species can also be found along the brooks. 
        (Håkan Blanck and Pia Englund, Entoto Natural Park 1995).

        Ethiopia's Natural History

        With Geology & Evolution. 

        Although regarding the Eucalyptus plantation in Ethiopia, this tree follows very high and contradictory water consumption, mainly by rejecting the country's yearly precipitations in fast-flowing torrents. Due to its lack of prehistoric DNA for the Ethiopian soil and organisms, the total water amount exerted by this introduced Australian tree did not deliver enough water to Ethiopia's surroundings nor the deep underground aquifers within Ethiopia's landscape. The Australian Eucalyptus requires some water for its secondary survival strategy but reject most of Ethiopia's precious water in fast-flowing torrents. This water rejection is the Australian tree's character as a foreign organism to the Ethiopian highland, within a completely incompatible micro-biological soil and type of Nature. The Eucalyptus tree's damaging effects on the forest floor do not permit the Ethiopian biotope to effectively absorb, filtering and distribute this water to the environment and, therefore, neither to Ethiopia's natural groundwater reservoirs. In Ethiopia, it is very scientifically evident how the Eucalyptus tree's impact on water resources work contrary to a healthy forest. By damaging water distribution, the Eucalyptus tree also sharply reduces the water for the citizens. In the past, this phenomenon of naturally accumulated water occurred with high efficiency in the indigenous forest of Ethiopia. This Ethiopia's Indigenous forest and plants created vital water preserving mechanisms in the past and had an overwhelmingly positive effect on Ethiopia's early and historical civilization. Thanks to Ethiopia's native trees' optimized heritage of securing healthy topsoil and the web strengthening undergrowth, this early civilization in Ethiopia built a high and prosperous culture. Then in the history of the past, Ethiopia was enriched by a tremendous amount of naturally purified spring water that made the strong base for almost everything required in this past high civilization.

        Ethiopian Heritage Trust (UK)


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