Study: Deforestation Slows In Congo Basin As Farming Gives Way To Oil, Mining

Study: Deforestation Slows In Congo Basin As Farming Gives Way To Oil, Mining

Deforestation in Africa’s Congo Basin rainforest has slowed down as countries there focus on mining and oil rather than agriculture, a study suggests, according to a report at UPI.com.

The Congo Basin rainforest is the world’s second largest, occupying 2 million square miles across central Africa. Only the Amazon rainforest is larger.

Satellite images of the region show deforestation fell by about a third since 2000, scientists said. The study shows the deforestation rate in the Congo Basin is lower than in other major tropical forest region in the world.

Countries wholly or partly in the Congo Basin region include Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.

“Most of the focus has been on the Amazon and on Southeast Asian tropical rainforests, and a big bit of the missing picture is what is going on the Congo Basin in Central Africa,” Simon Lewis from the University of Leeds and University College London told BBC News.

Tracking how the dense foliage was changing over time in satellite images, researchers found the Congo Basin forest is in better health than they had expected.

“The results were surprising,” Lewis said. “This is partly because there is a network of protected areas. But it is also because of a lack of expansion from agriculture, and the way these (central African) countries have organized their economies.

“They are very dependent on oil sales and also minerals from mining, and they are investing in that and not investing so much in agricultural expansion.”

“We have not seen the big increase in industrial agriculture like we have seen in the Amazon for soy and in South-east Asia for palm oil.  That is not yet happening on a large scale in Central Africa hence these lower deforestation rates,” Lewis said.

Africa’s rainforest is pivotal in its possible impacts on climate change, biodiversity and communities that depend on them, Lewis said.

There are about 10,000 species of tropical plants in the Congo Basin and 30 percent are unique to the region, according to World Wildlife Fund. Endangered wildlife, including forest elephants, chimpanzees, bonobos, and lowland and mountain gorillas live in the lush forests.