Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Table Data - Deforestation

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What Can be Done?

There are countless conservation efforts or measures that could be taken to improve the status quo. Things such as attempting to reduce logging, ameliorating civil differences, and installing limitations on resource extraction would surely better the current situation. However, as we've seen in the past, most of these efforts may fail due to the unstable, irresponsible political climate of the region. In order to ensure the preservation of native plant life and wildlife, a practical approach needs to be taken. The Wildlife Conservation Society, in my opinion, has adopted the post pragmatic and feasible strategy for protection of this ecosystem. This strategy involves continuing the international governmental lobbying efforts, but focuses mainly on setting up many high-quality, secured preservation sites in areas where the native wildlife and plant life are the most endangered and require the most protection. Several of this sites exist currently, and have been successful in their goals. This approach recognizes that mass destruction will still occur, but takes small steps towards preventing future areas from witnessing the same destruction. Over time, more areas can be protected, ensuring the safety of an increasingly larger portion of the forest. As more of the overriding problems relating to forest depletion are resolved on an regional scale, these small secured areas can expand and the native wildlife and plant life it protected can repopulate the surrounding forest areas.

Future of the Congo Rainforest

The future of the Congo rainforest ecosystem is grim. At it's current rate, the destructive impact of human logging, resource extraction, and civil strife would suggest that the forest is headed towards continued depletion and endangerment. While many conservation efforts do exist, these efforts seem scanty at best. Only 8% of the forest is currently protected under law, which is hardly enough to preserve the vast degree of native plant life and wildlife. Many of the protected species are still endangered, and most show few signs of improvement. Numerous conservation agencies have been stepping up their efforts and lobbying on a international scale, which has led to the creation of a myriad of NGO's and GO's dedicated to the protection of the forest. However, due to the political and economic instability of the region, these organizations lack any coercive power to enforce the regulations they pass. This is demonstrated by the fact that several of the most revered National Parks in the rainforest have been devastated by human destruction. Given the history of forest depletion over the last several decades and the current situation in the region, it seems there is little hope for the successful preservation and restoration of the rainforest. It would take massive overhaul of the political systems and economies of the area to create any sort of conditions in which conservation efforts can be successful.

Human Impact on the Ecosystem

Human logging, resource extraction, and civil strife have had a deleterious effect on the Congo Rainforest ecosystem. For decades now, commercial logging has threatened the stability of plant life and wildlife alike. This large industrial logging effort requires a substantial amount of logging infrastructure, which prohibits the repopulation of the lost trees in deforested areas. On top of this industrial logging, clearing for subsistence agriculture further contributes to the loss of forested land. Combined, these logging efforts deplete the forest at an average rate of about 0.5% per year, or over 300,000 hectares. In addition to timber, the Congo rainforest holds numerous other natural resources. Due to the poor economic condition of the states in which the Congo lies, these resources are routinely exploited for economic gain with little regard for the environmental damage it causes to the forest and its wildlife. The poor economic condition goes hand in hand with the high degree of political instability and civil strife continuously occurring throughout the Congo region. As with any violent warfare, the civil strife in the Congo decimates the forests where it takes place. The refugees fleeing from this strife typically have no where to go but deeper into the forest, where they are forced to exploit the land for survival. This means killing wildlife and ruining the surrounding forest to make room for camps. On numerous occasions this has even translated into the destruction of National Parks and other protected areas. The final result of all of these factors is deforestation on a massive scale, and the rapid depletion of much of the forests' wildlife, much of which is endemic and now endangered. Overall, there exists a strenuous relationship between the forest and the human population. Without massive restructuring of the political and economic agendas of all peoples within the region, the Congo is doomed to continue to experience massive destruction over the next several decades.

Historical State of the Ecosystem

The Congo rainforest boasts a storied and illustrative history. Thousands of years ago, during the most recent Ice Age, many areas of the inland forest were underwent relatively little change compared with the rest of the world, with the average temperature only four degrees Celsius less than it is now. This allowed for a rather unique development of the forest and its river, and the preservation of many species and ecological factors that would have otherwise dwindled. In more recent history, the rainforest hasn't demonstrated the same survival capabilities at the hands of humans. Commercial logging, civil strife, subsistence agriculture, hunting, and many other human impacts have been changing the face of the forest for over one hundred years now. This effectively reduces the size of the forest, decreases its biodiversity, and brings many species to the brink of extinction. Due to economic pressures and often exploitative political agendas, many worry that these destructive human forces will continue to deplete the forest throughout the remainder of the century, until little of the brilliant original ecosystem remains.

Ecosystem Images

 A Close Look

Congo Rain Forest