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Identifying potential areas of understorey coffee in Ethiopia’s highlands using predictive modelling

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Coffee production is one of the main economic activities in Ethiopia, representing about 40% of the country’s economy. Coffee is particularly important in the Ethiopian highlands, where appropriate climate allows higher productivity and quality. The Ethiopian highlands also host an outstanding biodiversity, being considered one of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots. In this context, conciliating agricultural practices with biodiversity conservation is a priority task for researchers and other stakeholders. However, identifying and mapping understorey coffee plantations in Ethiopian highlands is particularly challenging due to the presence of scattered exotic trees and the characteristics of understorey cultivation. In this research, we mapped potential areas of understorey coffee using predictive modelling and evaluated how projected changes in climate would affect the suitability of coffee production in the study area. Landscape maps, which were mapped using remote-sensing data based on object-based image analysis, remotely sensed spectral vegetation indices, and climatic variables were used to delineate probability maps showing the most likely location of understorey coffee. Normalized difference vegetation index and maximum temperature and precipitation were considered the best predictors for explaining the spatial distribution of understorey coffee. The accuracy of the probability map was validated based on existing understorey coffee areas mapped during field surveys. In addition, we show that potential changes in temperature and precipitation by 2050 are likely to shift suitable areas of understorey coffee to higher altitudes, affecting the landscape changes dynamics in the region.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, FI-00014, Helsinki, Finland 2: Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London, Berkshire, SL5 7PY, UK

Publication date: June 3, 2015

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