Long-term changes in forest cover in a global biodiversity hotspot in southern Mozambique
Background: Deforestation is a complex and dynamic process of widespread concern in sub-Saharan Africa which is influenced by a range of social, economic and biophysical factors.
Objectives: The aim of this study was to analyse patterns of deforestation and its potential drivers in the Licuáti Forest Reserve, a biodiversity hotspot in southern Mozambique between 1990 and 2016. Method: We performed image classification on Landsat imagery at six time steps and interviewed local community members to understand the spatial pattern and rate of forest cover loss over time. We also examined changes in the incidence of fire.
Results: A substantial increase in the rate of deforestation since 1990 was detected in this vulnerable thicket vegetation. The probability of deforestation was significantly higher near the major roads, where houses are located. This suggests that the proximity of human settlements to the forest, and access to charcoal markets in urban areas, influenced the spatial pattern. Two key factors 1) charcoal production, and 2) the establishment of settlements and agricultural lands were identified as proximate causes of deforestation. In addition, fires associated with these two causes might amplify the loss of forests in the area.
Conclusions: Complex interactions between the drivers of deforestation and socio-economic factors were suggested, as most of the charcoal produced in the region is transported to Maputo. Ongoing road improvements and infrastructural development in the region will likely accelerate the decline in forest cover in the future. This has implications for the biodiversity of the region as well as for the sustainability of local livelihoods, as they often depend on forest products for their daily uses.
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