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Guassa Reserve

Guassa is a high ground habitat found in Gera Midir (Menz) woreda in North Shoa Zone of the Amhara Regional State. It is located 288 km from Addis Ababa off the Addis-Dessie Road. Guassa derives its name from the dominant vegetation, Guassa grass (Festuca spp), that covers its alpine meadows, hills and ravines. Giant Lobelia Lobelia rhynchopetalum, is another herbaceous plant that dots the meadows of Guassa. The Afro-alpine habitat of Guassa ranges in altitude from 3200-3600 meter above sea level and it is estimated to have an area of 10,600 hectare. This high ground area usually receives an annual rainfall of 1400 mm and average temperature varies from 7 to 120C. Based on its vegetation, rainfall regime and temperature, Guassa conforms to Dega and Wurch Agro-climatic zones. Amongst the mammals, a viable population of the Ethiopian Wolf and Gelada Baboon are conserved at the site. One peculiarity of Guassa is the fact that its resources have been under local community protection for hundreds of years. According to customary rules, the area is closed from any type of usefor at least four years before being opened for use again. The closed season can be abrogated in cases when droughts persist and graze is unavailable outside the protected area. The main resources that are protected under this system are those required for grazing and construction. Materials needed for the preparation of household goods including mattresses, baskets, mats and rope are also protected from over use. Traditional laws that govern the use of Guassa‟s natural resources have been at work for several generations and have evolved to provide stronger protection to the site. At present Guassa is managed by a local committee elected from the community.

Wildlife

The Guassa area harbors nine (23%) of the endemic mammals of Ethiopia, including the Ethiopian wolf, the Gelada and the Ethiopian Highland hare. The Ethiopian wolf is legally protected and with a total world population of less than 450 is the most endangered canid in the world. With six packs of wolves, the Guassa area is a key population of the species. The gelada is the only living member of the once widespread genus Theropithecus and is only found in the highlands of northern Ethiopia. They live in large groups reaching up to 400 individuals where the spectacular males guard harems of females. Other mammals of the area include klipspringers, jackals, leopards, spotted hyenas, civets and servals.

Plants

Guassa supports important and endemic plant species including Guassa grass, giant lobelia, Erica moorlands, Helichrysum and Alchemilla species. The Afro-montane vegetation of the Guassa Area varies with altitude, and is a key attraction of the area. Other common plant species found in the area include Carex monostachya, Carex fischeri and Kniphofia foliosa of the family Asphodelaceae. Climbing in altitude, Euryops-Alchemilla shrubland occurs over 3,200 meters on flat, gentle slopes and well drained areas. The shrubby vegetation of Euryops pinifolius is extensively used as firewood by the communities living adjacent to the Guassa Area. Above 3,200 meters, Euryops-Festuca grassland is usually interspersed with scattered structures similar to Mima mounds that can reach a height of 1.5 meters and a diameter of 5 to 10 meters. These mounds consist of highly organic and deep soil. They are made by rodents, the most important of which is the common mole rat. As the altitude increases, the vegetation changes abruptly to Helichrysum-Festuca type of grassland followed by Erica moorland. The torch lily or red-hot poker covers entire hillsides with its flame-colored flowers between June and November. The palm-like giant lobelia is most spectacular and reaches up to 12 meters in height.




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