Africa’s environment then and now

Posted by Laura Grant on June 13, 2008
Posted in Conservation

The satellite pictures on the left show the loss of fynbos in the Western Cape to agricultural and urban expansion between 1978 and 2006. The satellite images are among more than 300 taken all across Africa published in the Atlas of Our Changing Environment, compiled by the UN Environment Programme. The atlas was launched at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN) which met this week in Joburg. The photographs span some 35 years and serve as “before” and “after” shots, showing how Africa’s environment has changed over the years.

The 400-page atlas can be downloaded in pdf fomat There’s also an interactive version where you can explore world maps. Apparently about 120 sites from the atlas can be seen on Google Earth.

UNEP lists some of the key concerns highlighted by the atlas as:
• Africa is losing more than 4-million hectares of forest every year – twice the world’s average deforestation rate.
• Some areas are losing over 50 metric tonnes of soil per hectare per year.
• About 65 percent of the continent’s farmlands are degraded by erosion and chemical and physical damage.
• Areas experiencing water shortages in Sub-Saharan Africa are expected to increase by almost a third by 2050.
• Refugee migrations, due to conflict but also increasingly as a result of food and water shortages are also putting pressure on the environment.
• Climate change is emerging as a driving force behind many of these problems and is likely to intensify the already dramatic transformations taking place across the continent.
• Africa produces only 4 percent of the world’s total carbon dioxide emissions, yet its inhabitants are to suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change.
• Africa’s capacity to adapt to climate change is relatively low, with projected costs estimated to reach at least 5-10 per cent of GDP.
• Cooperative approaches involving several bordering countries are becoming essential for the conserving and enhancing of shared ecosystems.

Via :: Foreign Policy Passport

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