Loss of African woodland may impact on climate, study shows

Jul 22, 2013

Deforestation in parts of Africa could be reversed with changes to land use, a study suggests.

A more strategic approach to managing trees across the continent could have a positive impact on the changing climate, researchers say.

A pioneering study of African savannas by the University of Edinburgh has revealed deforestation in south-central Africa, driven by rising populations in the aftermath of war, and increasing demand for trees for agriculture and fuel.

This loss of forests threatens the ecosystem and the livelihood of populations. Scientists suggest that the situation could be alleviated by using sustainable fuel instead of charcoal, and ending the practice of burning forests to support agriculture and livestock.

Loss of trees could impact on climate change, as forests store carbon in their stems and branches, helping to reduce the amount of harmful in the atmosphere. Tracking changes in woodland across the continent may help scientists better understand their effect on , and improve predictions of .

The study identified a north-south divide – while most forests and woodlands in the south are losing tree cover, many north of the equator are gaining trees. The worst affected areas are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.

Increase in cover north of the Congo basin might have been caused by migration to cities, resulting in fewer fires, and more hunting of large mammals, reducing tree destruction.

Researchers analysed studies of tree cover in African savannas, and combined this with a 25 year record from satellite data. The study, supported by the Natural Environment Research Council, was published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.

Dr Ed Mitchard, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: "Land use in Africa influences how much its forests can grow – and their capacity for absorbing . If humans reduce burning and cutting forests and savannas these will grow and help to limit the impact of carbon emissions, but instead in many places people are impacting more on woodlands and forests, adding to carbon emissions."

Explore further: Researchers develop new instrument to monitor atmospheric mercury

Related Stories

Peatland forest destruction raises climate concern

Feb 01, 2013

The destruction of tropical peatland forests is causing them to haemorrhage carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, scientists say.The destruction of tropical peatland forests is causing them to haemorrhage carbon ...

Central African countries to monitor Congo forests

Jul 26, 2012

Ten Central African countries have agreed to take part in a regional initiative to monitor the Congo Basin, one of the world's largest primary rainforests, the UN's food agency said Thursday.

Recommended for you

Arsenic stubbornly taints many US wells, say new reports

13 hours ago

Naturally occurring arsenic in private wells threatens people in many U.S. states and parts of Canada, according to a package of a dozen scientific papers to be published next week. The studies, focused mainly ...

Who's been affected by Australia's extreme heat? Everyone

22 hours ago

Australia has been hit by two years of heat: 2013 was the hottest ever recorded and 2014 wasn't far behind, taking third place. The country has also sweltered through several significant heatwaves, and, though ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

NikFromNYC
1 / 5 (11) Jul 22, 2013
The push for "sustainable" fuel creates the fuel poverty that leads to deforestation and trade in bush meat. Such green policy failure leads to brain blending doublespeak in popular articles, too, in which coal use that greens the planet via plant fertilization is bizarrely attacked, as it alone directly replaces wood fuel.

"Scientists suggest that the situation could be alleviated by using sustainable fuel instead of charcoal, and ending the practice of burning forests to support agriculture and livestock."

A more neurotic sentence can scarcely be imagined, though it does work as pure propaganda.

"Scientists" say we can end the burning of forests by...ending the burning of forests.
deepsand
3.2 / 5 (9) Jul 24, 2013
The push for "sustainable" fuel creates the fuel poverty that leads to deforestation and trade in bush meat.

WTF has bush meat, which has always been a source of man's protein, got to do the the subject?

"Scientists" say we can end the burning of forests by...ending the burning of forests.

That, of course, is a deliberate misrepresentation, one which comes as no surprise.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.