Net deforestation between 1990 and 2000. The circle size is proportional to the surface affected by deforestation in each sample of 100 km².© Royal Society B
Deforestation rates in Africa slowed down by 50%
In the years 2000-2010, Africa's deforestation was reduced to half in comparison to the period 1990-2000, according to a JRC article in the special-themed issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B on Africa's rainforests, co-edited by the JRC.
'State and evolution of the African rainforests between 1990 and 2010' presents a new state-of-the-art map of the current extent of Africa's rainforests, accompanied with deforestation measurements, and explores the patterns and drivers of change over those 20 years.
In the period 1990-2000, Africa's rainforests were reduced at an annual pace of 0.28% (i.e. 590,000 ha) compared to 0.14% (i.e. 290,000 ha) in the following decade, with a drop from 0.16% to 0.10% in the Congo Basin, a decrease from 0.91% to 0.30% in West-Africa, and a reduction from 1.63% to 0.97% in Madagascar.
Despite containing about 27% of the world’s tropical rainforests (a surface of around 200 million hectares or the combined area of France, Germany, Poland, Spain and Italy), deforestation is still relatively low in Africa, where the rainforest reduction is less than 10% of global deforestation.
Urbanisation, wood fuel collection and agricultural expansion are some of the underlying factors for deforestation in the Congo Basin, the world's second largest rainforest area after the Amazon. The slowdown of deforestation can be attributed to a better management of production forests where timber is exploited and, to the installation of new protected areas.
West Africa and Madagascar exhibit a higher deforestation rate, which can be partly explained by the high population pressure. The reduction of deforestation here is more related to the low remnant forest cover, which does not allow for maintaining the same rhythm of forest destruction.
As Africa's forests store about a third more carbon per hectare than a typical Amazonian rainforest, the deforestation reduction in Africa is likely to have a bigger impact in reducing emissions than declines elsewhere.