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

    US Lawmakers Vow to Continue Immigrant Program for Afghan Interpreters

    Congressional inaction threatens funding for effort which began in 2008 and has allowed more than 20,000 interpreters, their family members to immigrate to US

    Brexit's Impact on Russia Stirs Concern

    Some analysts see Brexit aiding Putin's plans to destabilize European politics; others note that an economically unstable Europe is not in Moscow's interests

    US to Train Cambodian Government on Combating Cybercrime

    Concerns raised over drafting of law, as critics fear cybercrime regulations could be used to restrict freedom of expression and stifle political dissent

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roari
    X
    June 28, 2016 10:33 AM
    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora