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Congo Basin Rainforest could have passed 2100

By Morgan Erickson-Davis Africa's Congo Basin is home to the second largest rainforest on the planet. But according to a…

By Morgan Erickson-Davis

Africa’s Congo Basin is home to the second largest rainforest on the planet. But according to a new study, this may soon not be the case. It is found that at the current deforestation rate all the forests will be gone by the end of the century.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) in the United States that analyzed satellite data collected between 2000 and 2014. The results were published on Wednesday in Science Advances. It reveals that the Congo basin lost about 165,000 square kilometers of forest during the study period.


In other words, one of the world’s largest rainforests lost a forest area larger than Bangladesh in a span of 1

5

The Congo Basin rainforest is home to many species, such as this okapi (Okapia Johnstoni), which is listed as threatened by the IUCN and is available only in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But why? Is it due to industrial pressure like in South America and Southeast Asia where the majority of deforestation has been made for soya, palm oil and other raw materials? Or commercial forest felling, which rages forests in Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea?

Not so much, according to this latest study. It reveals that the dominant force behind the rising Congo deforestation, which accounts for 80 percent of the region’s total forest loss, is actually small-scale clearing for subsistence use. The researchers write that most of the things are done by hand with simple shoulders.

According to the authors, the deforestation of the Congo rainforest is largely due to poverty as a result of political instability and conflict in the region. Congo Basin Rainforest is divided by six countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Congo (RoC) and Gabon. Of these, the Democratic Republic of Congo has the largest part of the Congo forest – 60 percent – and is home to more people than the other five in combination. Democratic Republic of the Congo, together with CAR, has a human development index of the lowest 10 percent, which means that life expectancy, education levels and per capita GDP are among the lowest in the world.

Three-year moving average for annual forest losses for major disruption categories in all countries Image from Tyukavina et al., Sci. Adv. 2018; 4: eaat2993

With a few supply options, most people survive by cutting farmland out of the forest. These plots are grown until the soil is dry of nutrients, after which a new plot is cleansed and planted.

Before now, exactly how much this type of small farmers, called “shifting cultivation” and other forms of small-scale farming, contributed to overall deforestation from the Congo. So UMD researchers were looking for patterns that signal different types of deforestation in regional tree loss data captured by satellites.

According to study employee Alexandra Tyukavina, “It was important for us to explicitly quantify the proportions of different drivers, to show how dominant the small-scale cultivation of forests for changing crops lies within the region, showing that it is not only to clear secondary forests but also for expansion in primary forests. “Tyukavina is a postdoctoral associate associated with UMD’s Department of Geosciences.

Tyukavina and her colleagues found that small-scale forest cleaning for agriculture contributed approximately 84 percent of the forestry from the Congo Basin between 2000 and 2014. When you zoom in on the sections Contains only in the Democratic Republic of Congo and car, this number goes up to more than 90 percent. The only country where small-scale farming is not the driving force for deforestation is Gabon, where industry-selective forestry is the single biggest cause of forest loss.

The study also reveals that the majority of 60 percent of Congo deforestation between 2000 and 2014 occurred in primary forests and forests, and in mature secondary forests.

Destructive forest type. (A) Reference Destruction Type for sampled pixels identified as forest loss. (B) National estimates of the 2000-2014 forest loss area through forest type destruction. Area calculations expressed in ha along with SE are presented table S2A. Image from Tyukavina et al., Sci. Adv. 2018; 4: eaat2993

The United Nations projectes that there will be a fivefold increase in the human population in the Congo Basin at the end of the century. The researchers found that if current trends are held, there will be no primary conco rainforest left 2100.

In its study, researchers also warn about a “new wave” of large-scale clearing for industrial agriculture. While contributing to a comparatively less than 1 percent of deforestation in Congo during study time, it seems to be upward, especially in coastal countries.

“Land use planning that minimizes the conversion of the natural forest area to the agro industry will help mitigate this growing threat to primary forests,” the researchers write.

Reposted with permission from our media-associated Mongabay.

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