Deforestation increases in the Congo rainforest

Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
March 20, 2012

Deforestation in the Congo Basin
Deforestation in the Congo Basin. Click image to enlarge.

Deforestation in the Congo Basin has increased sharply since the 1990s, reports an extensive new assessment of forests in the six-nation region.

Released by the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC) and members of the Congo Basin Forest Partnership, The State of the Forest finds that the region's annual gross deforestation rate doubled from 0.13 percent to 0.26 percent between the 1990s and the 2000-2005 period. Gross degradation caused by logging, fire, and other impacts increased from 0.07 percent to 0.14 percent on an annual basis. Despite the jump, rates in the Congo Basin remain well below those in Latin America and Southeast Asia, but the region is seen as a prime target for future agroindustrial expansion.

Deforestation in the Congo Basin
Degradation in the Congo Basin, 1990-2000 and 2000-2005. Click image to enlarge.

The data is based on advanced satellite mapping as well as field studies. More than 100 authors contributed to the report, which is released every two years. Researchers involved in the project are now working to analyze data for the 2005-2010 period.

The report lists five primary direct drivers of deforestation: fuelwood collection and production; agriculture, both subsistence and industrial; mining and oil extraction; expansion of plantations for biofuels; and logging. It notes that logging activities — which degrade forests — often facilitate future deforestation.

Deforestation in the Congo Basin
Deforestation by forest type/classification in DRC, 2000-2005 and 2005-2010. Click image to enlarge.

The report says forest zoning and stronger regulatory framework could help reduce deforestation in the Congo Basin, which provides important ecosystem services to humanity, including carbon storage and contributing the rainfall generation in surrounding agricultural areas. The forests of the region are key habitat for a number of endangered species, including forest elephants, chimps, and gorillas. The State of the Forest argues that the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) program could emerge as a critical source of funds for forest protection efforts.

Nevertheless, the report warns that high rates of population growth, coupled with immigration and global demand for commodities, will pose ongoing challenges for the health and productivity of Congo Basin forests.

Deforestation in the Congo Basin
The Congo Basin includes the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. Burundi and Rwanda are also included in portions of the report. Click image to enlarge.

CameroonCongoCARDRCGabonEq GuineaCongo Basin
Gross annual deforestation (%)
Net annual deforestation (%)
Gross annual degradation (%)
Net annual degradation (%)
For margin of error, see the report

CITATION: de Wasseige, C. et al (2012). The Forests of the Congo Basin - State of the Forest 2010. Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. ISBN: 978-92-79-22716-5 | DOI: 10.2788/47210

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Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com (March 20, 2012).

Deforestation increases in the Congo rainforest.