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DFG research unit 2358 | P3 Ecology, Paleoecology and Evolutionary Ecology

Dr. Graciela Romero, Mekbib FekaduProf. Lars Opgenoorth

Foto: Lars Opgenoorth

Here we investigates the ecology of the largest alpine ecosystem in Africa, the Bale Mountains of Southern Ethiopia, which is determined by fire, grazing and soil-rooting small mammals. The aim is to identify the age, dynamics, and climate of the alpine anthropocene, the man-made cultural landscape of the high mountains. The high endemism testifies to the stability of the ecosystem in evolutionary time scales. Fire continuity has influenced the Erica tree population for at least 15,000 years and has presumably expanded afroalpine vegetation with dwellings of endemic small mammals. The presence of middle Stone Age hunters suggests an intensive fire impact for at least 45,000 years. Partial objectives of the second phase are (1) the environmental reconstruction since the presence of humans by means of charcoal and pollen analysis and in the bridge to project C2 using genetic methods on the landscape level, lake sediments and cliff delivery dung heaps, (2) the recording of Afro-Alpine vegetation patterns in relation to Erica trees and their spatio-temporal dynamics. The latter is particularly considered with regard to Erica rejuvenation and climate or fire-dependent dynamics of small mammal dwellings and their endemic plant population. The overriding question remains whether fires in this ecosystem are mainly natural or man-made.