Nechisar National Park is in eastern North Omo Zone. The zonal capital, Arba Minch, is on the western border of the park. Arba Minch is 279 km south-west of the regional capital Awassa and 90 km north of Konso. Nechisar is named after the white grass that covers the undulating Nechisar plains and contrasts with the black basalt rocks of the Amaro mountains to the east, and the black soils of the plains. Around 15% of the park comprises portions of Lakes Abaya to the north and Chamo to the south. The water of Lake Abaya is always brown or red-brown, in contrast with Lake Chamo which has strikingly blue water and white sandy beaches. The park also covers the neck of land between the lakes which supports groundwater forest. The Kulfo river connects the two lakes. At the foot of Mt Tabala in the south-east there are hot springs. The altitude ranges from 1,108 m at the shore of Lake Chamo to 1,650 m on Mt Kalia in the north-east. The main habitats of Nechisar National Park are the lakes, their shorelines, the groundwater forest and connecting river, the dry grassy plains, thick bushland and the wooded valleys and foothills of the Amaro mountains. Most of the park is covered in bushland, which is thick and impenetrable in places, the taller trees including Combretum spp., Dichrostachys cinerea, Acacia tortilis, Balanites aegyptiaca and occasional Acacia nilotica. In the southern part of the park, Dobera glabra and Acacia tortilis form open woodland. The grassland is edaphic, the underlying soil being calcareous black clay. The most widespread grass species is Chrysopogon aucheri. The forest between the two lakes and by the Kulfo river is dominated by Ficus sycamorus up to 30 m tall. This same area supports a number of shrubs and scramblers, but few herbs on the forest floor. The freshwater swamps at the mouth of the Kulfo river and in Lake Chamo are dominated by Typha angustifolia, tall waterside grasses, e.g. Saccharum spontaneum, and the small leguminous trees, Sesbania sesban and Aeschynomene elaphroxylon. Arba Minch is an important regional centre and meeting place for people from the southern parts of the Great Rift Valley. There is a crocodile farm near Lake Abaya. Both lakes have good populations of fish, including nile perch, and there is a small, modern fishing industry. Crocodiles thrive in Lake Chamo and are being culled commercially for their highly prized skins. The local people living on the islands and around the lakes are the Ganjule and Guji. They are variously farmers, pastoralists and fishermen. They use boats made of Aeschynomene elaphroxylon. Extensive areas to the west of Lake Abaya were cleared in the 1960s and 1970s to establish large-scale mechanized farms for cotton and other lowland crops.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Falco naumanni occurs on passage, with a few birds possibly wintering. Similarly, Circus macrourus is fairly common on passage, with some wintering. Small numbers of Phoenicopterus minor occur on Lakes Chamo and Abaya. Somali–Masai biome species typical of bushland habitats include Phoeniculus somaliensis, Lanius dorsalis and Cisticola bodessa. The open plains support three species that are little known in Ethiopia: an isolated population of Mirafra albicauda (unknown elsewhere in Ethiopia), the endemic Caprimulgus solala (known from just one record) and the rare C. stellatus. The plains support populations of two other nightjars, Caprimulgus fraenatus and C. donaldsoni. The south-western corner of Lake Abaya supports one of only two Ethiopian populations of Myrmecocichla albifrons. Other notable species include Aviceda cuculoides, Macheiramphus alcinus, Chelictinia riocourii, Gypaetus barbatus, Accipiter ovampensis, Francolinus levaillantii, Podica senegalensis, Schoutedenapus myoptilus, Coracina caesia and Serinus reichardi.
Non-bird biodiversity: Nechisar National Park was established to protect the threatened mammal subspecies Alcephalus buselaphus swaynei (EN), as well as for its scenic beauty, and supports populations of at least 37 mammal species.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The National Park was proposed in 1967 and has been under development since 1972. It is still waiting to be gazetted. Until 1991, the park was one of the best-protected areas in the country, with minimal human use of its resources. The situation has since altered dramatically and heavy resource use now threatens its future. The fast growth of Arba Minch town has caused the rapid loss of trees, particularly from the groundwater forest, both for fuel and construction. Other problems include grazing by domestic stock on the eastern boundary of the park, and illegal fishing in the parts of the lakes adjoining the park. Nechisar was previously administered from Addis Ababa with minimal interaction with local people and authorities. Arba Minch is the zonal administrative centre and houses two institutions of tertiary education: Arba Minch Water Technology Institute and a Teacher Training Institute. More direct involvement of the town and these institutions in activities to conserve and protect the flora and fauna of Nechisar could do much to improve the attitude of the local people towards the park. Arba Minch Water Technology Institute trains water engineers for work throughout Ethiopia. The park includes the waters of both Lakes Abaya and Chamo and offers a good opportunity to introduce both formal and informal environmental education activities for the students of this institution and that of the Teacher Training Institute.
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Nechisar National Park and surroundings. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 22/01/2022.