Tropical forests wiped out at alarming speed – University of Copenhagen

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03 August 2010

Tropical forests wiped out at alarming speed

Ecology

The forests around Dar-Es-Salaam in Tanzania are rapidly being reduced. Researchers from 12 different organisations in Europe have observed the development in the area for the past 20 years. The timber line is now being moving away from the city by more than 9 kilometres each year and today the forests are located more than 220 kilometres from the city.

The forests have been subject to intense logging and exploitation of resources. Export of wood, particularly to China, but also increasing urbanization in the area has caused maximum exploitation of the forests, often leading to extermination. Increase in population also increases the need for resources, e.g. charcoal for cooking.

Tanzania forest. Photo: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Tanzania forest. Photo: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Exhaustion of natural resources in the area has fatal consequences, both short and long term. The biodiversity is already radically altered. In just five years, the 48 species of trees has decreased to 14 species - and a carbon uptake of 46 tonnes has been reduced to 5 tonnes.
The research results have been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA (PNAS). Extermination of large forest areas can be seen with the naked eye, but the research also esti-mates the exploitation of natural resources using an economic model that can help structure the future work.

Professor Neil Burgess, Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Department of Biology, is part of the international research team:

- "Almost 96 % of timber from Tanzania is exported illegally, which means an economic loss of 58 million dollars for the country. Poverty in the area is enormous, and sale of timber is often the only way in which the local popu-lation can survive. But something has to be done NOW! Hopefully, our re-sults with the economic estimates for the future can help turn around the un-fortunate development and contribute to implementing a political strategy that can prove sustainable for both nature and population", says Professor Burgess.

The research has been done in collaboration between, among others, The Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh and the University of Leeds.

Article:

Read article in PNAS 

Contact:

Professor Neil Burgess, Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Department of Biology

Email: ndburgess@bio.ku.dk 
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