/ ©: Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK

Congo Basin deforestation

Here's the good news. In a global context, annual deforestation rates are relatively low in Central Africa, compared to other rainforests in Southeast Asia and South America. The bad news is that scientists are not really sure how accurate this figure is.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Central Africa lost approximately 91,000 km2 to deforestation in the 10 years between 1990 and 2000. The size of the region's forests was estimated at 2,403,000 km2 in 2000.

Given the extent and rate of forest fragmentation from roadside farming and logging, basic simulations suggest that few large blocks of relatively undisturbed forest will remain in 50 years.In fact, it is estimated that up to 30% of forests will disappear by 2030. 

In West and Central African countries, degradation of forests has already transformed some areas into savanna grasslands or degraded savannas.

The threat to Congo basin forest

As forests shrink, wildlife disappears and economies sputter, one business keeps booming in the Congo Basin forests: logging. Along with pressures caused by population growth over the last decades, unregulated and often illegal extraction of timber puts wildlife, local people and economies at risk.

Unrelenting timber demand from around the world -- in particular, rapidly rising demand from China -- means that the forests of Congo Basin are being harvested at unprecedented rates. Often, this is done unsustainably or not in accordance with local laws. Road-building by logging companies has also opened up remote areas of forests to poaching and illegal logging.

The solution to Congo basin forest

Concerted action that balances the rights of indigenous groups with market demands will be a critical element of conservation in the Congo Basin.

WWF and its partners are working throughout the region to create a network of protected areas to conserve biodiversity, encourage logging and mining companies to promote good management practices, promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and degradation of forests, support sustainable business practices and financial investments in development and infrastructure projects, improve the livelihoods of indigenous and local peoples and reduce wildlife poaching and the bushmeat trade.

Find out more about WWF's efforts through the Green Heart of Africa initiative.
 / ©: Brent Stirton / Getty Images
© Brent Stirton / Getty Images

Stop the chainsows

 / ©: Brent Stirton / Getty Images / WWF-UK
As forests shrink, wildlife disappears and economies sputter, one business keeps booming in the Congo Basin forests: logging. Along with pressures caused by population growth over the last decades, unregulated and often illegal extraction of timber puts wildlife, local people and economies at risk.

Congo Basin forest facts

  • At over 200 million hectares, Congo Basin is home to the world's second largest tropical forest.
     
  • The Congo Basin supports the highest biological diversity in Africa: over 400 mammal species and more than 1,000 bird species. It is the last stronghold for forest elephant, gorilla, forest buffalo, bongo, and okapi.
     
  • There are approximately 10,000 species of tropical plants in the Congo Basin and 30 percent are unique to the region.
     
  • Nearly 150 distinct ethnic groups exist in the region.
     
  • Between 1990 and 2000, approximately 91,000 km2 of forests were lost in Central Africa, an area about three times the size of Belgium.

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