Africa's deforestation rate may be underestimated
June 22, 2006
Africa's deforestation rate may be underestimated by satellite imagery according to a researcher at the University of Wisconsin.
"The consensus is that Africa is losing about 0.4 to 0.7 percent of its forests each year but this is likely an underestimate," said Gibbs. "If you have rain over an open woodland forest, common to parts of Africa, it will 'green up' or sprout flowers. If the satellite takes its image at that time it can have the impression that there is more forest as a result."
Gibbs also said that the use of net estimates for deforestation can also mislead policymakers on the true rate of forest loss by masking the disappearance of ecologically important primary forests with the growth of secondary forests and commercial plantations.
Gibbs said that current remote sensing may only give a partial picture of the true extent of forest degradation and that more on-the-ground data was needed to get a better understanding of deforestation on the continent.
"We have to move beyond net estimates and look at gross rates of clearing to be able to fully assess the impact of human land use changes on Africa's forests," she added.
Deforestation in Madagascar. Photo by R. Butler
The impact of deforestation is one of the central topics being discussed at the Conservation International-sponsored meeting in Madagascar. More than 450 scientists, government representatives, and development experts have convened to discuss ways that sustainable management of ecosystems can help reduce poverty and hunger in Africa.
Deforestation in Africa
The vast majority of Africa's tropical moist and tropical rainforests exist in West and Central Africa. However, these forests are rapidly vanishing; according to the FAO, Africa lost the highest percentage of rainforests during the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s of any biogeographical realm.
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Goodbye to West Africa's Rainforests January 22, 2006
West Africa's once verdant and extensive rainforests are now a historical footnote. Gone to build ships and furniture, feed hungry mouths, and supply minerals and gems to the West, the band of tropical forests that once extended from Guinea to Cameroon are virtually gone. The loss of West Africa's rainforests have triggered a number of environmental problems that have contributed to social unrest and exacerbated poverty across the region.
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China, as the fastest growing economy in the world, is poised to make significant impacts on the global market and the global environment, especially with its expanding involvement with nations rich in natural resources but deficient in economic and political stability. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Africa where China has rapidly bolstered its ties in recent years with the majority of the continent's 54 nations.
Quotes attribted to Gibbs' come from a Reuters article, "Rate of African forest loss underestimated: scientist", written by Ed Stoddard.
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