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Laurance, W.F.; Alonso, A.; Lee, M.; Campbell, P.
Challenges for forest conservation in Gabon, Central Africa
2006  Futures (38): 454-470

In recent decades, large expanses of tropical rainforest in central andwestern Africa have been cleared, logged, fragmented, and overhunted. In contrast, extensive forest in Gabon has survived in a relatively intact condition because the country has a sparse population and substantial petroleum and mineral deposits that have reduced economic pressures on forests. Unfortunately, Gabon's petroleum reserves are dwindling. As a direct result, industrial logging is expanding rapidly; nearly half of the country's forest is currently in timber leases, and this could increase to over 75%of the remaining forest during the next decade.Mechanized logging has important ecological impacts on forests, but themost severe effects are indirect, because loggers create labyrinths of roads that greatly increase access to forests for hunters and slash-and-burn farmers. Declines of forest wildlife from overhunting have been severe in much of tropical Africa, and are likely to rise sharply in Gabon as physical accessibility to forests increases. The Gabonese government is eager to consider alternative strategies to augment economic development, including promotion of an ecotourism industry. This commitment is evidenced by the government's recent designation of 13 new national parks that comprise over a tenth of the country's land area. Efforts to develop ecotourism face substantial challenges, however, including the high profitability of exploitative land uses like logging, the illegal encroachment of loggers and hunters into nature reserves, political instability in the surrounding region, and limited infrastructure for tourism. Nevertheless, these and other efforts to promote more-sustainable development should be strongly supported, as Gabonese forests have among the highest levels of species diversity and endemism in tropical Africa and are likely to play a critical future role in biodiversity conservation.

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