Tuesday, June 10, 2008

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Mabira Forest Reserve

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Mabira Forest, located in one of the Uganda's most densely populated districts, is the country's only protected area of medium-altitude, moist, semi deciduous forest. The forest contains a wealth of biodiversity, provides a variety of services to local inhabitants, and is important to the area's hydrology. The forest is under intense pressure from timber harvesting, charcoal production, fuelwood collection, and agricultural encroachment.

A 1989 study estimated that 29 per cent of Mabira Forest was lost between 1973 and 1988. The report also noted a significant increase in ecological disturbance in the areas of forest that remained. In the 2001 image, (above left) a large portion of harvested forest still shows the light green colours of young secondary growth (yellow arrows). The 2006 image shows that this secondary forest still remains largely intact and is maturing.

The Ugandan government plans to give much of this portion of Mabira Forest to the Sugar Corporation of Uganda (SCOUL) to expand its sugar plantations. This prospect sparked opposition protests in Kampala, 50 km to the southwest. While the government argues that the need for economic development justifies the loss of the forest, many environmental groups have opposed the move, citing the value lost in biodiversity, ecosystem services, timber production, eco-tourism, and carbon sequestration credits, which can be traded on the world market.
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