Characteristics and classification of the soils of the plateau of SIMEN Mountains National Park (smnp), Ethiopia
The Simen Mountains National Park (smnp) is found in the Simen Mountains (North Gonder). Detailed soil survey (scale 1:25 000) was conducted to classify, characterise and determine status of the soils of the plateau of smnp. Umbric Andosols, Luvic Andosols and Mollic-Lithic Leptosols were found to be the major soil types. Land use and topographic attributes affected many of the characteristics of the soils. Thickness of total and topsoil depth decreased with increase in slope gradient and altitude. Whereas the whole of the study area was once covered by dark topsoil, this characteristic was lost in many of the cultivated soils. Under natural conditions, the soils had high levels of andic properties (which fixed P availability) and high contents of surface organic carbon (commonly over 6%), and total nitrogen (>0.4%), available water holding capacity (over 30%) and cec (>30 Cmolc kg-1 soil). Contents of organic carbon, total nitrogen, available phosphorus, water holding capacity, levels of pH and topsoil depth were most sensitive to degradation and lowered in quality under cultivation, suggesting the need having awareness in their management under cultivated soils. Crop and animal production expanded to higher altitudes and steeper slopes (>80%) where the rare wild animals existed, which would cause their displacement and extinction. Therefore, coexistence of farming population and wild animals could not become sustainable in the smnp. This calls for a development of sound land use plan in order to preserve (and conserve) natural resources in general and the soil resources in particular.