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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infectionsi
X
November 28, 2014 3:31 PM
South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video South Africa Sees Male Circumcision as Way to Reduce HIV Infections

South Africa remains plagued by AIDS despite massive government and NGO efforts on prevention and life-sustaining Anti-Retro-Viral programs. But the country has opened up another front to reduce new HIV infections: promoting circumcision. Emilie Iob reports for VOA News from a pioneering circumcision center in Orange Farm, Johannesburg.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.

All About America

AppleAndroid