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Cerrado: This high plateau region of Brazil is not nearly as well-known as the Amazon. But it is under just as threatened—mainly from cattle ranching and the conversion of forests to soy plantations. If the current rate of loss continues, much of the Cerrado’s savannah, woodland and forests outside of protected areas will disappear by 2030. Photo courtesy: World Wildlife Foundation

According to a recent global assessment of forests, an average of 10 percent loss of biodiversity can bring about a 2 to 3 percent reduction in productivity (including biomass) which such forests can offer.

The continuous loss of biodiversity in Africa is caused by a number of anthropogenic factors. These include an increased demand for, as well as the consumption of natural resources and pollution created by urbanization and industrialization. The population of Africa surpassed one billion people in 2009, and grew at a rate of 2.3 percent per year between 2010 and 2015.

Some well known threatened animals are African species such as elephants, rhinos, lemurs and gorillas, which happen to be the targets of native poachers and hunters hoping to profit from the illegal wildlife trade. Seasonally dry and moist forests, as well as wetland habitats, have all been reduced dramatically over the last 15 to 20 years, with the declines typically being in the range of 1 percent loss per annum. Sadly, this has resulted in an expenditure of $166 to $490 billion in order to maintain the value of the forests’ and wetlands’ productivity. These funds are much more than the total costs of effective global conservation and can be used for forest management, remediation and restoration.

In recent times, scientists and policy makers have expressed a great level of interest in the biodiversity-productivity relationship (BPR), but most BPR assessments of forests have been regional. Jingjing Liang et al compiled data from 777,126 sample plots across 44 countries and 13 ecoregions in order to get more insight into BPR on a global scale. In total, more than 30 million trees across 8,737 species were tallied and measured.

Their assessment reveals that, on a global scale, a 10 percent decrease in tree species richness would cause a 2 to 3 percent decline in productivity, which is the rate of biomass production in an ecosystem.

A 99 percent decrease in tree species richness, by contrast, results in productivity declines of 62 to 78 percent. While productivity trends consistently decrease with increased biodiversity loss across nearly all regions of the world, the areas that would experience the greatest productivity decline in absolute terms include the Amazon, West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, Southeastern Africa, Myanmar, Southern China, the Malay Archipelago and Nepal.

However, African countries have taken various measures to address biodiversity loss and promote economic development. As of February 2015, 25 African Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) have ratified or acceded to the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit Sharing. Forty-seven African Parties have submitted at least one National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP). Nineteen African countries have surpassed the first component of Target 11 on Protected Areas (17 percent coverage of terrestrial protected areas).

African countries have also shown leadership in collaborating with neighboring countries in addressing biodiversity loss to achieve the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. Such collaborative actions include launching the African 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production, demarcation of trans-boundary protected areas, such as the Sangha Tri-National – Landscape and trans-boundary conservation measures such as the Regional Action Plan for the Conservation of the Cross River Gorilla.

The report also makes recommendations in areas such as: Addressing the illegal trade in wildlife through increased law enforcement; using initiatives such as the REDD+ forest restoration and conservation initiative; implementing conservation actions on a greater scale; improving governance to strengthen links between wildlife management and community development; and mobilizing resources from private and global funds, to establish practicable systems of payments for ecosystem services.

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One Response

  1. Sandra Ajaps says:

    Good work, Denise. I found this article very informative. I didn’t know African countries are seriously talking about conservation. So it was a delight to see that they are collaborating to protect biodiversity. I hope they intensify their efforts, especially Nigeria, before it becomes too late.

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