July 31, 2012
Forest in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda. Photo by: Rhett A. Butler.
"Large areas of evergreen forests have been lost from East Africa during the 20th century resulting in carbon emissions, reduced habitat for forest dependent biodiversity, and reduced availability of essential ecosystem services," the researchers write. "Initial conservation efforts in East Africa, like elsewhere, focused on creating protected areas."
The study also found some evidence for leakage — that protecting forests in parks simply lead to increased deforestation outside protected boundaries — but cautions that more research is needed.
Booming populations and the ease of accessing a particular were the two main drivers for deforestation in the region, according to the study. Local people clear forests for agriculture, grazing land, and for charcoal to burn. Roads are bringing more people to the edges of protected areas, where, in some cases, forest loss was more severe than national rates. Commercial logging, both legal and illegal, is also taking a toll.
The best way to mitigate deforestation in the region is not to keep locals out however, says the study. In fact, current data "suggests that involving local communities in forest management improves forest conservation outcomes," the scientists write. They point to Kenya's Mukogodo Forest Reserve and Tanzania's Vumari Forest Reserve as innovative conservation areas that allow community participation and resource collection, and note that Tanzania's Participatory Forest Management (PFM) program is a model worth emulating.
"[PFM] increases decision-making powers of villages on the use of forest resources and empowers them to declare, own and manage their forests," the authors write.
Deforestation was most severe in Rwanda and Uganda, but South Sudan actually saw forest cover increase during the time period in question.
CITATION: Pfeifer M, Burgess ND, Swetnam RD, Platts PJ, Willcock S, et al. (2012) Protected Areas: Mixed Success in Conserving East Africa’s Evergreen Forests. PLoS ONE 7(6): e39337. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0039337
Ten African nations pledge to transform their economies to take nature into account
(06/11/2012) Last month ten African nations, led by Botswana, pledged to incorporate "natural capital" into their economies. Natural capital, which seeks to measure the economic worth of the services provided by ecosystems and biodiversity—for example pollination, clean water, and carbon—is a nascent, but growing, method to curtail environmental damage and ensure more sustainable development. Dubbed the Gaborone Declaration, the pledge was signed by Botswana, Liberia, Namibia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania following a two day summit.
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Featured video: Honoring Wangari Maathai, who would have been 72 yesterday
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Legal case against Serengeti road moves forward
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