Forests provide ecosystem services that are vital to the well-being of humans, but lack of knowledge about and recognition of these services have resulted to inappropriate preservation and utilization of such ecosystems. The main objective of this study was to assess the types of ecosystem services provided by the Ground Water Forest ecosystem in the Nech Sar National Park of Ethiopia. Household interviews were conducted with 151 Arba Minch town residents and key informant discussions were held with 48 individuals selected from different public and private organizations. Major provisioning ecosystem services provided by the forest, as reported by the respondents, were firewood (reported by 97% of the respondents), charcoal (90%), water (93%), foodstuff (fruits, fishes, mushrooms and wild honey; 83%) and construction materials (87%). These results may show that the livelihood and socioeconomic development of the whole Arba Minch town and the surrounding local inhabitants are directly or indirectly dependent on this forest ecosystem. Ecosystem services such as climate stabilization (100%), flood control (100%), purification of the forty springs (91%), pollination (83%), and assimilation of waste materials (76%) were also reported as key regulating services of the forest. Various kinds of cultural services were also indicated to be provided by the forest, including spiritual (97%), aesthetic (94%), ecotourism/recreation (90%), art/design and educational (87%). Finally, the respondents had reported that the supporting ecosystem services provided by the forest, which included soil formation (83%) and habitat for wildlife (90%). Despite the vital ecosystem services provided by the forest, resource overexploitation, lack of awareness, lack of alternation energy sources and livelihood options are key challenges to the sustainability of the forest’s ecosystem and its services. These challenges thus should be appropriately addressed if conservation of the forest is to succeed.
Key words: Anthropogenic impacts, Arba Minch, biodiversity, conservation, ecosystem services, Ground Water Forest