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Why Africa needs to act on extinction of plants

AFRICA is notably known for its rich and unique landscapes with savannah environments filled with exotic plants, and sadly—this reality is on the verge of diminishing due to deforestation, climate change, and population growth, scientific reports reveal.

According to the assessment published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature –IUCN. The Red List of Threatened Species, a third of tropical Africa plants are on the path to extinction.

The report highlights that much of western Africa, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and parts of Tanzania, have sustained critical impacts, which makes them open to losing over 40 percent of their abundant richness of plants.

As Africa relies is dependent on its rich tropical rainforest for its livelihood, much stands at risk, primarily the destruction of vital biodiversity. According to the United Nations (UN), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) forests in Africa are being depleted at a rather fast pace of more than 4 million hectares per year, which is twice the world’s deforestation rate.

The report argues that species at risk include trees, shrubs herbs and woody vines. This means that Africa needs to come together to develop robust measures to combat this threat, because— plants are crucial to many ecosystems and life at large.

FAO shows that almost 70 percent of the rural population relies on natural resources including forests for their livelihood. Forests don’t only provide food and oxygen, but they are a source of myriad materials and medicines.

According to Dr Thomas Couvreur of the French National Institute for Sustainable Development, the fate of Africa hangs in the balance. “Biodiversity provides countless benefits to humans and losing diversity jeopardizes our future,” he adds.

According to a report by The Guardian, the scientists from IUCN collected data accounting more than 20,000 plant species across tropical Africa, as well as data on threats such as croplands and cities, to predict mining activities—which are associated as one of the major factors behind forest degradation.

Further, the scientists cited that their algorithm classified 17 percent of the plant species in tropical Africa as likely to be under threat and 14 percent as potentially threatened – a total of almost 7,000 species. These species are largely concentrated in the rainforests of western Africa and the Ethiopian highlands.

Dr Gilles Dauby of the French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development and a co-author of the assessment said that “There is an extra 38 percent of species which we assess are geographically restricted, so they are rare, but for which no obvious threats for the moment are identified. If human pressure increases, which is very likely in most parts of tropical Africa, they will be likely threatened in the very near future.”

According to FAO between the year 1990 and 2010 Africa lost more than 3 million hectares of forest per year, this means—the continent stretched further into an ecosystem danger, which includes losing its reliable carbon sink resource, of which Africa’s forest contain million metric tons of carbon in living forest biomass.

World Economic Forum (WEF) highlights that logging and agriculture continue to be two of the biggest threats to Africa’s tropical forests, and the unsustainable production of palm oil is one o the biggest drivers, commanding over a $ 50 billion global industry expected to rise to $ 8 billion by 2022.

African forests can be saved by employing a joint mechanism that attracts all stakeholders on the table. Efforts of stakeholders ought to deal with the intertwined issues of environmental protection, human rights (relating to indigenous people depending on forest resources), agricultural production and ensuring the sustainable livelihood of farmers.

WEF recommends modern technology to be at the forefront of environmental protection, and in this case on African dense forests over space and time. Global Forest Watch is using rapid advances in satellite imaging to increase transparency and improve access to forest-related data.

Anyone with a computer can create custom maps, analyze forest trends, and download actionable data. In Panama, drones are being used by local communities to monitor their forests in real-time all year round. Elsewhere, governments are exploring how block-chain technology could be applied to tracking land rights allocations.

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Author: PADILI MIKOMANGWA

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