Forests cover about 31% of the planet's land area. In addition to its beneficial effects on the environment, many forest-related jobs benefit those who depend on the forest sector. Both plants and animals depend upon forests for survival. Forests play an important role in mitigating climate change because they act as a carbon sink, absorbing carbon dioxide which would otherwise increase the level of climate change. The effects of deforestation and forest degradation are quite visible. The main cause of forest destruction is agriculture, and the main cause of deforestation is illegal logging. In 2019, more than 30 soccer fields' worth of trees were lost every minute in the tropics .
Nigeria is best known for its crude, but the country has a lot of forests and wildlife. About 4,715 animal species and 899 bird species exist here. Nigerian forests are under threat because of rapid population growth, industrial and agricultural conversion, and logging. Around half of Nigeria is forested, but it is diminishing at a rapid pace. The Tropical rainforests region of Nigeria has lost almost 80% of its forest from 1990 to 2005, making it one of the fastest deforestation rates in the world. The green belt of Nigeria fell by 2.38% from 1990 to 2010. Nigeria has about 1400 species of wildlife. Among both, 1.2% are rare, and 2.5% are endangered. Nigeria has about 4715 vascular plant species. 4.3% of them are endemic. About 3.6% of the population of Nigeria belongs to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) community.
The importance of tropical rainforest
Rainforest absorbs carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, which is a big deal because the Earth gains 40% of its oxygen from these . It only takes a small part of the Earth to influence the air we breathe and climate in the world. Hence, tropical rainforest plays an important part in maintaining the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Excessive use of fossil fuels and over-harvesting of trees has resulted in a tremendous increase in carbon dioxide concentrations, and this imbalance is resulting in global warming.
Destruction of rainforest is increasing the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere resulting in a greenhouse effect, which is causing rapid glacier melting in Arctic region and a rise in seawater level. The annual rainfall is also affected due to a reduction in green cover. People should realize that tropical rainforests are important not just for themselves, but for other species and resources, and we should do something to protect them. For example, governments can make a national park or a national scenic area. It can also control things like logging and tree clearing. For individuals, people may avoid the use of wood products, encouraged to use of recycled products and environmentally friendly practices.
National deforestation estimates in percent per year and agricultural statistics are from FAO (2010). Mapped sub-national estimates of the Deforestation Indicator in hectares are indicative only, given the resolution of the data source, and are from CI (2011), derived from the MODIS percent tree-cover change product for 2000 to 2005 (Hansen, et al 2009) .
What is happening:
Nigeria is one of the most inhabited countries in Africa after Rwanda but it's losing its ground cover at an annual rate of 3.5% . Forests are mostly burned down for agriculture, forestry and mining. Population increase in this region is a significant source of deforestation. Human growth requires land expansion, thus destroying native habitats. People are using wood and charcoal because of the growing prices of petroleum products, especially gas and kerosene. Forests are becoming less productive. Excessive use and demand for palm oil, cashew nut, sesame, and cocoa are promoting deforestation for making new areas for commercial cultivation .
What is being done:
The following steps have been taken so far by the Nigerian Government:
- Nigeria has developed a national protected areas system and has a moratorium on deforestation. Additional efforts have been increased by partnerships with UN REDD+ (The United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) to protect Nigeria's forest resources by alleviating poverty .
- The Nigerian Government has announced its intentions to restore 10 million acres of damaged lands within its boundaries. The West African nation has now been added to the African restoration initiative which seeks to restore more than 100 million acres of deteriorated land by 2030 .
- NCF (Nigerian Conservation Foundation collaborated) with BirdLife to initiate participatory forest management (PFM) project in Taraba Province, with the support of DFID (Department for International Development) and the Darwin Initiative. This project leads to the development of five community forests, each with good forest governance. These forests are found in the Kwararawa, Akwaba, Auma, Ayo, and Usuma Local Government Areas of the Al-Jebelah State. Forest Consumer Organisations (FUGs) participating in Alternative Subsistence (AL) programmes. This has led to an increase in household incomes and a decline in deforestation .
What is needed?
- Identification of the poor sector in the society needs to be done and they should be provided with cheap food and fuel under a special scheme.
- New forest conservation area needs to be marked in all states to safeguard the indigenous endangered species of flora and fauna.
- Ex-situ breeding programs for endangered species need to be focused on.
- Strict laws are needed to check the entry of industries that rely on forest products and agriculture.
- Marking of the tribal communities living in forest areas needs to be done.
- Illegal wildlife trade needs to be checked.
- Environmental education and awareness programs are needed.
- Reforestation of areas using new techniques like seed balls as being done in Kenya .
- Introduction and popularization of plant and herb species like bamboo that can replace the use of wood.
Tropical rainforests are extremely important in the Earth's ecosystems and cannot be replaced. By destroying the tropical rainforests, we are destroying the environment and the ecology, as well as the ecosystem. This in itself threatens the human species. Only a long term global commitment to conservation and sustainable development can reverse the tide of uncontrolled deforestation.
- Hansen, M., DeFries R.S., Townshend J.R.G., Carroll M., Dimiceli C., Sohlberg R.A. (2003) Global Percent Tree Cover at a Spatial Resolution of 500 Meters: First Results of the MODIS Vegetation Continuous Fields Algorithm. Earth Interactions, Vol 7, No 10, pp 1-15
- Batta, H., et al. (2013). Press Coverage of Climate Change Issues in Nigeria and Implications for Public Participation Opportunities. Journal of Sustainable Development, 6(2).
- 3 Olakunle, O.G., et al. (2011). Pattern and Problems of Deforestation in Southwestern Nigeria. International Journal of Academic Research, 3(3)
Mrs. Jyoti Rajwar, is a Lecturer II in Skyline University Nigeria. She has MSc in Microbiology from G.B.Pant University of Agriculture & Technology, India.