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AFRICA: Mountain forests disappearing at an alarming rate

According to a new study published on March 17, 2023, logging, fires and agriculture are causing mountain forests to disappear at an increasing rate. At least 78.1 million hectares, or 7.1 percent of the total of these ecosystems, disappeared between 2000 and 2018. The situation in Africa is of particular concern, given the climatic role played by its mountain forests.

Africa’s montane tropical forests store more carbon per hectare in their above-ground biomass than any other tropical forest on the planet. A study published in March 2021 by the German University of Bayreuth shows that Africa’s montane rainforests store an average of 149.4 tons of carbon per hectare, compared to an average of 89.3 hectares for the rainforests of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Africa’s montane rainforests are therefore of critical importance to the carbon cycle and climate regulation. Researchers have also established that these ecosystems are biodiversity hotspots and home to a large number of endemic plant and animal species, i.e. species that do not exist anywhere else on earth.

Deforestation is accelerating

Mountain forests are disappearing at an accelerated rate, to the detriment of the climate and biodiversity. According to a new study published on March 17, 2023 in the journal One Earth, the mountain forests that covered 1.1 billion hectares of the planet in 2000 have lost 7.1% of their area over the following 18 years. This loss is accelerating. The study indicates that recent losses were 2.7 times greater than at the beginning of the century.

« Losses in the forest mountains of the tropics are increasing very rapidly, more than in other regions. And biodiversity is very rich in these places, so the impact is huge, » says Zhenzhong Zeng, co-author of the study.

Logging is responsible for 42 percent of the loss of mountain forests, followed by forest fires (29 percent), shifting cultivation (15 percent), and permanent or semi-permanent agriculture (10 percent), according to the study.

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