The sustainable land management program (SLMP) of Ethiopia aims to improve livelihoods and create resilient communities and landscape to climate change. Soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration is one of the key co-benefits of the SLMP. The objective of this study was to estimate the spatial dynamics of SOC in 2010 and 2018 (before and after SLMP) and identify the SOC sequestration hotspots at landscape scale in four selected SLMP watersheds in the Ethiopian highlands. The specific objectives were to: 1) comparatively evaluate SOC sequestration estimation model building strategies using either a single watershed, a combined dataset from all watersheds, and leave-one-watershed-out using Random Forest (RF) model; 2) map SOC stock of 2010 and 2018 to estimate amount of SOC sequestration and potential; 3) evaluate the impacts of SLM practices on SOC in four SLMP watersheds. A total of 397 auger composite samples from the topsoil (0-20cm depth) were collected in 2010, and the same number of samples were collected from the same locations in 2018. We used simple statistics to assess the SOC change between the two periods, and machine learning models to predict SOC stock spatially. The study showed that statistically significant variation (P<0.05) of SOC was observed between the two years in two watersheds (Gafera and Adi Tsegora) whereas the differences were not significant in the other two watersheds (Yesir and Azugashuba). Comparative analysis of model-setups shows that a combined dataset from all the four watersheds to train and test RF outperform the other two strategies (a single watershed alone and a leave-one-watershed-out to train and test RF) during the testing dataset. Thus, this approach was used to predict SOC stock before (2010) and after (2018) land management interventions and to derive the SOC sequestration maps. We estimated the sequestrated, achievable and target level of SOC stock spatially in the four watersheds. We assessed the impact of SLM practices, specifically bunds, terraces, biological and various forms of tillage practices on SOC using partial dependency algorithms of prediction models. No tillage (NT) increased SOC in all watersheds. The combination of physical and biological interventions ("bunds+vegetations" or "terraces+vegetations") resulted in the highest SOC stock, followed by the biological intervention. The achievable SOC stock analysis showed that further SOC stock sequestration of up to 13.7MgC ha--1 may be possible in the Adi Tsegora, 15.8MgC ha-1 in Gafera, 33.2MgC ha-1 in Azuga suba and 34.7MgC ha-1 in Yesir watersheds.


  • Ethiopia is investing a huge amount of resources to tackle land degradation through land restoration under its various initiatives such as Food for work, Managing Environmental Resources to EnableTransitions (MERET), and the sustainable land management program (SLMP)

  • We evaluated the impacts of two categories of Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices: i) the impacts of biophysical intervention existed at the landscape level bunds, terraces, biological and a combination of physical and biological; and ii) the impacts of conservational tillage practices conventional tillage (CT), reduced tillage (RT) and no-tillage (NT) on the SOCst sequestration, and recommend optimal practice that optimize soil organic carbon (SOC) stock in the four SLMP watersheds

  • The observed differences could be attributed to different factors – on the proper application of SLM, the specific SLM technologies implemented and their potential differences in SOC sequestration, agroecological and other environmental variables that influence the performances of SLM options

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Ethiopia is investing a huge amount of resources to tackle land degradation through land restoration under its various initiatives such as Food for work, Managing Environmental Resources to Enable. Transitions (MERET), and the sustainable land management program (SLMP). Ethiopia has invested more than US$1.2 billion annually in restoring landscapes in its major regions (Adimassu et al, 2018). Some of the Sustainable Land Management (SLM) practices implemented include physical measures (soil/stone terraces, trenches, micro basins, percolation bonds, and gully treatments); biological measures (area closure, tree/forage planting on terraces, bamboos); or a combination of the two. In addition to improving livelihoods, the land restoration efforts support the government of Ethiopia to achieve its regional and international commitments such as the “4 per 1000” initiative and the Land Degradation Neutrality programme (Chabbi et al, 2017). It is expected to contribute to the achievement of both the national REDD + programme and the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) strategy


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