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Can Logging in Equatorial Africa Affect Adjacent Parks?

Somnath Baidya Roy, Princeton University
Peter D Walsh, Princeton University
Jeremy W Lichstein, Princeton University

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Abstract

Tropical deforestation can cause fundamental regional-scale shifts in vegetation structure and diversity. This is particularly true in Africa. Although national parks are being established to protect areas from deforestation and to conserve biodiversity, these parks are not immune to disturbances outside their boundaries. We used regional-scale atmospheric simulation experiments to investigate how deforestation in timber concessions might affect precipitation inside adjacent, undisturbed national parks in the equatorial African countries of Gabon and the Republic of Congo. The experiments revealed a complex response. Some parks showed rainfall reduced as much as 15%, while others showed slight increases. Rainfall inside parks was particularly sensitive to upwind deforestation along the path of airborne moisture traveling inland from the ocean. A variety of shortcomings in the current modeling procedures limit the ability to extrapolate from experiments such as ours to provide spatially explicit, long-term forecasts of climate. We describe what advances in modeling are needed to produce regional-scale predictions that are robust enough to be useful to managers and policy makers.

Key words

deforestation; logging; precipitation; climate change; Africa; tropics; national park
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087