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.
(03/25/2010) Gorillas may disappear across much of the Congo Basin by the mid 2020s unless action is taken to protect against poaching and habitat destruction, warns a new report issued by United Nations and INTERPOL.
(02/01/2010) The bushmeat trade in the Congo basin has been widely publicized but poorly addressed. While fines and sentences exist for wildlife trafficking, they have traditionally been poorly enforced due to corruption, poor governance, and attentions focused on other priorities. Major traffickers, who tend to be rich and well-connected, trade with impunity, knowing that a well-placed bribe or a phone call can get them off with little more than a slap on a wrist. But the days of privilege may be drawing to a close in Republic of Congo thanks to the efforts of PALF [Projet d’Appui à l’Application de la Loi sur la Faune], a Brazzaville-based NGO which is working to build the capacity of Congolese authorities to enforce wildlife laws. In the process, PALF is helping root out corruption and raise awareness of the plight of the country’s increasingly threatened wildlife, including forest elephants, big cats, chimps, and gorillas.
(11/23/2009) There have been many warnings by policymakers that rising temperatures in Africa could lead to civil conflict, however a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is the first to uncover empirical evidence for these warnings and quantify them. The results—that higher temperatures increased the likelihood of civil war in sub-Saharan Africa by over 50 percent—took aback even the researchers.