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Forest transition in an ecologically important region: patterns and causes for landscape dynamics in the Niger Delta

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date09/2011
JournalEcological Indicators
Journal number5
Volume11
Number of pages9
Pages1437-1446
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The influence of human related actives such as oil and gas exploration, intensified logging of trees and over exploitation of forest resources for food, have negatively impacted the once flourishing and ecologically diverse forest system of the Niger Delta region in Nigeria. Relevant information on the transitional changes of forested landscapes in the delta is poor compared to other tropical forests such as the Brazilian and Columbian Amazonian forest where numerous research studies have been conducted. Consequently, this study aimed at investigating the spatial extent and rates of forest transition in the Niger Delta region taking into consideration the patterns, causes and implications of the landscape dynamics. The study determined the spatial extent and rates of forest transition in the study area using remotely sensed data from 1986 and 2007. The results indicated that the spatial extent of deforestation, unchanged forest cover and afforestation were 1.38, 2.39, and 1.15 million hectares, respectively, while the annual deforestation and afforestation rates were 0.95 and 0.75% which are high compared to other areas in the humid tropics.
The annual rate of change in forest cover was determined as −0.13% indicating an overall reduction in the spatial extent of forest cover for the entire delta. Changes in the spatial structure of forests were investigated using landscape metrics and the results showed there was a substantial increase in forest
fragmentation. The variations in population dynamics and poverty indicators between different states of the Niger Delta were unable to explain the observed patterns of forest change. Instead, the authors observed that the main determinants of forest dynamics were the variations in state forest management
policies and the influence of the oil and gas industry on the economies of the states. High rates of afforestation were found in states that have limited oil resources and were more economically dependent on forest products, while states with high deforestation rates were found in the main oil-producing parts
of the study site. Using the present trend of forest transition dynamics, a 20-year forward simulation was generated using the Markov algorithm. The results concerning forest transition in the study area point to the urgent need for appropriate environmental policy development and implementation for the Niger
Delta region.