for National Geographic News
Industrial logging is increasingly gobbling up Africa's tropical forests, satellite data shows (see pictures).
Researchers studied 300 satellite images covering more than 1.5 million square miles (4 million square kilometers) to track the expansion of logging roads from 1976 to 2003.
The data suggests that 30 percent of forests in six central African countries are under ownership of private logging companies. Logging is the most extensive form of land use in the region.
In contrast, about 12 percent of the forests are set aside for conservation.
The new study represents the first comprehensive satellite mapping of central Africa's dense and humid forests.
(See related: "Aerial Survey Documents Africa's Last Wild Places" [August 17, 2005].)
"This is the first time we've been able to see how vast the imprint of the logging is on the landscape," said study lead author Nadine LaPorte, director of the Africa program at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts.
Inroads for Logging
Central Africa's tropical forests have long been considered among the most pristine on Earth.
However, there are now more than 230,000 square miles (600,000 square kilometers) of forest under logging concessions in six central African countries: Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (see a map of the region).
The researchers mapped more than 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers) of logging roads within this region. They found that logging roads account for 38 percent of the length of all roads in the area studied.
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