Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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Kibira Forest

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Uncontrolled cutting of trees for fuelwood coupled with land clearing for agriculture and grazing in Burundi has resulted in profound deforestation—as much as 47 per cent of the country's forest cover has disappeared since 1990. Along the mountains dividing the Congo and Nile River Basins is Kibira Forest, Burundi's only montane rain forest. This 40 000-hectare forest and national park is home to 644 plant species including the threatened African mahogany species, Entandrophragma excelsum, as well as 98 mammal and roughly 200 bird species. Kibira is also the source for 75 per cent of the water driving the country's largest hydroelectric dam.

The 2004/2006 image (top) shows Kibira Forest as an island of green in a largely deforested landscape. The high-resolution images (see photos panel below) show how agriculture—large and small—is closing in on the forest boundaries. While the forest is a national park, it faces continued pressure from legal and illegal cutting of trees, cutting of bamboo, fire, poaching, grazing, and agriculture. Light green patches in the enlarged 2006 image (imediately above, yellow arrows) show evidence of disturbance where the mature forest has most likely been lost to fire or tree-cutting. Limited legal forestry is allowed in the park; however inadequate capacity to enforce policy has led to considerable illegal logging and clearing for farms.
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