Uniquely regenerating frankincense tree populations in western Ethiopia

Mindaye Teshome, Abeje Eshete, Frans Bongers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Dry tropical forests provide a wide range of forest products that directly support the livelihoods of people. These forests are the most threatened and least protected forests due to expansion of agriculture and pasture lands, unregulated grazing, forest fire, unregulated collection of wood and other forest products. Dry forests of Ethiopia are heavily affected by such human induced factors. The iconic Boswellia papyrifera (Del.) Hochst is a dominant tree species of this forest and the principal source of the globally traded frankincense. The species lacks regeneration in all forests evaluated so far. Frankincense forests in relatively wetter dry land areas with little or no human related disturbance are not evaluated so far. Here we quantified the regeneration status of the frankincense tree in such areas and evaluated these forests in comparison to non-regenerating frankincense forests elsewhere. We surveyed two-ha plots in each of five districts in Benishangul Gumuz Region, Western Ethiopia. The frankincense tree populations showed two different regeneration patterns: inverse J-shaped and bell-shaped pattern. The presence of regenerating populations in three of our study areas is in sharp contrast to all earlier studies on this species. The healthy regeneration might be related with the availability of more favourable conditions such as better precipitation, lower levels of anthropogenic disturbances and younger ages of the three woodlands. These unique, regenerating frankincense tree populations need recognition and should be delineated as priority areas for conservation, which includes their role as source of genetic material. Better attention of conservation practitioners, policy makers and frankincense companies may help this species to survive and therewith its emblematic frankincense.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-135
JournalForest Ecology and Management
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Climate factor
  • Dry land forest
  • Human disturbance
  • Population structure
  • Regeneration bottleneck


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