Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Environmental Studies Program


Travis Reynolds

Second Advisor

Manuel Gimond

Third Advisor

Cathy Collins


Species of the genus Eucalyptus (common name eucalyptus) are widely planted all across Ethiopia – including on large areas of land previously allocated to food production. In recent decades eucalyptus has also increasingly been planted on lands around and within “church forests,” sacred groves of old-aged Afromontane trees surrounding Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido churches. These revered holy sites have long been recognized for their cultural values and also for their ecosystem services – including their potential to support species conservation and restoration, as church forests are some of the only remaining sanctuaries for many of Ethiopia’s indigenous and endemic plant and animal populations. Ethiopian Orthodox church communities have a long history of planting and nurturing indigenous tree seedlings to sustain church forest groves. However, due to the fast-growing nature of eucalyptus combined with its widely recognized socio-economic benefits (as fuelwood, charcoal, construction wood, etc.), this introduced species has been widely planted on cropland around church forests – in some cases even replacing native tree species within church forests themselves. In many developing country contexts the introduction of exotic eucalyptus has been shown to have ecological impacts ranging from soil nutrient depletion, to lowering water tables, to allelopathic effects. This thesis examines the expansion of eucalyptus planted in and around church forests, as well as the ecological and social impacts of this expansion on the vitality of the natural forests, surrounding land, and church communities.


Ethiopia, deforestation, eucalyptus expansion, church forest