Ecohydrological threats to Colophospermum mopane in southern Zimbabwe
Adeboyejo, Aina T.
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Rapid ecohydrological changes in semi-arid landscapes are increasingly threatening humanity’s life-support systems and eroding many of the ecosystem services (ESs) upon which humans occupying such regions depend. Knowing which services and ecohydrological changes to be most concerned about is indispensable to maintaining the general health of such ecosystems and for developing effective ecosystem management practices. In the semi-arid regions of southwestern Zimbabwe where a large population of rural households depend on ESs extracted from the Colophospermum mopane tree, such understanding may be critical in reversing potential ES losses that may have catastrophic effects on the lives of many. We surveyed a total of 127 rural households who occupy the semi-arid landscapes of the Colophospermum mopane belt in southern Zimbabwe. We assessed the ecohydrological conditions characterising ecosystems where they obtain ES provisioning goods using a number of ecohydrological variables commonly cited in the literature on ecohydrology. Building on principal component analysis (PCA), we employed a hierarchical agglomerative clustering method to create unique clusters of households that depicted different levels of risks or threats associated with their ES provisioning harvesting practices. Multiple regression analysis was further performed to identify significant ecohydrological cluster-defining variables. Our results showed that spatial differences in ecohydrological parameters resulted in four distinct ES resource thresholds depicting four categories of risks that households face in extracting such resources in nearby landscapes. We concluded by proposing a number of landscape restoration or management practices targeted at reversing potential ES losses and subsequently safeguarding the livelihoods of many who depend on ESs.