Africa’s greatest rainforest ecosystem, the Congo Basin, has undergone significant deforestation and degradation during the past century. A new study in the open access journal Tropical Conservation Science examined whether or not there was a connection between population density and forest loss.
Since the 1980s the Congo rainforest has had the highest rate of deforestation of any tropical region in the world. A combination of commercial logging, illegal logging, clearing for agriculture, mining, and civil wars has devastated much of the forest. The booming bushmeat trade is another threat to the Congo’s wildlife. The Congo rainforest is home to some of the world’s most celebrated and endangered wildlife, including forest elephants, okapi, gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos. Some 10,000 animal species have been discovered in the Congo.
Using a classified Landsat ETM+ scene of 2001 to determine forest cover and 2000 UNEP data for population, the researchers found “highly significant” correlations between increasing population density and pressure on forests, including increasingly isolated forest patches. According to the authors, the paper’s findings “confirms the influence of population density on the degradation of natural ecosystems”.
Bamba I., Barima Y. S. S. and Bogaert, J. 2010. Influence de la densité de la population sur la structure spatiale d’un paysage forestier dans le bassin du Congo en R. D. Congo. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 3 (1):31-44.
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