News / Africa

African Rainforests Continue to Face Challenges

Joe DeCapua

The African continent contains about 30 percent of the world’s global rainforests, second only to the Amazon. Scientists and conservationists met at Oxford University to discuss changes the forests are expected to undergo in the 21st Century.

Africa’s tropical forests face challenges from deforestation, hunting, logging and mining, as well as climate change.

“Climate change is a major issue for much of the world, but for Africa, in particular. And there’s much interest and concern around Africa’s forests, which is the second largest area of tropical forest in the world after the Amazon forest. And yet there’s been very little synthesis of the research that’s there. There’s much less known about both climate and forest and people and there interaction in Africa compared to many other regions of the world,” said Yadvinder Malhi is a professor of ecosystems science at Oxford University and director of Oxford’s Center for Tropical Forests.

He said the conference brought together experts in climate change, ecology, social sciences, economics, anthropology and archeology to discuss Africa’s rainforests.

“They’re important at an international level for many reasons. They hold a large amount of carbon. They seem to be absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, which is slightly slowing down the rate of climate change. In the case of Africa, the recycling of water. So water that falls in the Congo region gets taken up in the roots of trees and evaporated back into the atmosphere where it forms clouds and new rain,” he said.

The clouds that form over the Congo Basin actually have long range effects on water supplies and weather patterns in parts of Asia and even North America.

West and Central Africa

There’s a big difference between the forests of the Congo Basin and West Africa. Malhi says there’s been extensive deforestation in West Africa. Much of the land has been cleared for agriculture over the last 20 to 30 years.

“When we look at the Congo Basin we see a very different situation. That’s an area that is at the moment almost all intact forest and has had relatively low rates of deforestation. And the reasons why those rates have been low are varied from country to country. But in the largest area, the Democratic Republic, it’s been political instability and poor infrastructure linked to that instability that has meant that this large forest reserve has not currently really faced very heavy pressure, at least compared to forests of Asia or the Amazon,” Malhi said.

However, he said that could change with new investment and infrastructure and expansion of industrial scale plantations.

About 3,000 years ago, the Congo forests were affected by natural climate drying. Forests retreated and were replaced by grasslands.

“At the same time, around two and a half thousand years ago, Iron Age humans settled in much of the forest, cleared it with axes, with iron axes. And then they had a population collapse around a thousand years ago and the forest regrew. And this is quite a different history from the history we see in the Amazon rainforest, where there’s been pretty continuous forest over human history and earlier. And also where there was human impact it was not with iron instruments. There was no Iron Age in the Amazon,” he said.

The combination of natural climate drying and the wide scale felling of trees resulted in fewer species of trees compared to other tropical forests. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“The species that are left seem to be relatively resilient to a large extent. They can recolonize disturbed areas quite quickly. They can spread quite quickly, regrow quite quickly. So if one area gets deforested, you can still find the species elsewhere,” he said.

Food Security

Modern day deforestation is often done to make room for agriculture. The U.N. says by 2050 the world population is expected to rise to nine billion. That means a much greater demand for food. But the Oxford professor says there are ways of meeting that demand that do not require widespread deforestation. One of them is making current agricultural land much more productive.

“Much of agriculture in Africa is of very low productivity. Very low inputs of fertilizers and nutrients. You could have the current agricultural output of the Africa tropical forest region in 40 percent of its current agricultural land, leaving 60 percent of the land available for forests if the agriculture was intensified. So, it’s not a simple tradeoff between more food means more land and therefore less forests,” he said.

Malhi says once all the information from the conference is analyzed, recommendations will be made to governments, U.N. agencies and others. They’re expected to include proposals for protecting remaining rainforests, better land management for agriculture and new research into the effects of climate change.

The conference ran from January 4-6.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs