A vulnerable forest ecosystem impacts both the ecological function and human wellbeing. Forest-fringed communities derive livelihood benefits from the forest through the provision of ecosystem services. In principle, the sustainable management of a forest is about the restoration of forest standing and the development of alternative livelihoods for the forest dwellers. This calls for a better understanding of the factors that influence the vulnerability of the forest. The aim of this piece of research is to identify, map ecosystem services and determine the environmental vulnerability index of the forest. The implication for human security raises a sense of urgency.
The study employed Focus Group Discussion to identify, map and valued ecosystem services. A multi-criteria decision-making tool, the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) offered the integration of several factors under three criteria, environmental, physical and anthropogenic.
The results were treated with GIS tools to generate a vulnerability map for the area. Wild fires (44%), land use options (19%) and population density (17%) are the factors that influence ecosystem vulnerability. Respondents have observed a drastic reduction in the supply of ecosystem services by the forest. The Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI) of the forest is 2.46 which is interpreted by the natural breaks classification as moderately vulnerable. The contribution of wild fire to the `vulnerability of the forest is 44%. The combined influence of anthropogenic factors is 80%. The vulnerability map demonstrated low to high vulnerability according to the extent of cover change. As policy makers move to restore the forest, wildfire management must be in the spotlight.