African Forests Falling Faster to Loggers

Africa Logging Speeding Up (National Geographic Pictures)
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June 7, 2006—Logging roads are being built faster than ever through central Africa's dense tropical forests, which are considered among the world's most pristine, according to a new study.

Scientists used satellite data to map logging activity between 1976 and 2003 in six central African countries: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) (see map of Africa).

The results, pictured here, show that new logging roads (red) are penetrating deep into approved logging areas (gray) while also cutting close to, and sometimes through, protected forests (dark green).

"It's the first time we have this high-resolution view of what's going on in the region," said Nadine LaPorte of the Woods Hole Research Institute in Falmouth, Massachusetts, who led the research.

Her team's study will be published in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science.

The roads were densest in Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, the study showed. But the fastest changing area was in northern Republic of the Congo, where the rate of road construction has nearly quadrupled in 30 years.

"Things are changing fast as logging companies move into new areas," LaPorte said.

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—Image courtesy Nadine Laporte, WHRC
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