We have a special thematic issue coming out on Monday on the past, present and future of African rainforests. This will be in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. The issue is available at the journal website herehttp://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/current
Thanks to the support of the Waterloo Foundation and through some authors finding their own support, many of the articles are Open Access. This is particularly important as I hope these articles can reach an African audience that cannot afford journal subscriptions.
I am genuinely quite proud of this issue - I think it makes some nice advances by bringing together various strands of research in African rainforests, and includes some real state-of-the-art analyses.
There has been some nice coverage in the media, in particular an excellent article in Mongabay (the best source I know of for thoughtful news and analysis of rainforest issues - I recommend bookmarking the site).
There was also prominent coverage about the story about reducing rates of deforestation on BBC news.
The synthesis paper can be downloaded here and gives a fairly decent overview of the insights that have emerged It was a very educational process editing this issue, and I have learnt a lot in the process. Here is an extract from the synthesis paper...
This thematic issue has highlighted the many-faceted uniqueness (or “exceptionalism”) of the African humid forest biome. Other tropical forest regions may also have some of these features in common with Africa, but this particular combination of features characterises much of the African rainforest biome. Key among these are:
· the extensive history of climate variation, biome expansion and retreat, and human interaction with the biome,
· the relatively dry and cool climate when compared with other major tropical forest regions
· the relatively low plant species diversity and yet extremely high animal biomass (in the non-heavily hunted forests).
· complex patterns of customary and state land tenure built in long histories of low-level forest exploitation
· the dominance of selective logging, small-scale farming and bushmeat hunting as the major forms of pressure on the rainforest biome, in contrast to the agro-industrial pressures that dominate in the tropical Americas and Asia.
· the particular context of mineral and oil driven economies of Central Africa, resulting in unusually low rates of deforestation and agricultural activity
· the particular governance and poverty challenges and civil conflict context of the African tropical forest giant, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
and here is our final paragraph..
"This synthesis has highlighted many surprising aspects of the African rainforest biome, and how different it is in many aspects from other, perhaps better understood, rainforest regions. It has also highlighted how little we know and how much there is still to discover. There are reasons for concern, such has the heavy levels of defaunation and the potential impacts of climate change, and reasons for hope, such as the low rates of deforestation and the possible resilience of rainforest species to climate change."
"We call on the research and policy communities to redouble efforts to give this fascinating rainforest continent the attention it so richly deserves."
Yadvinder Malhi is an ecosytem ecologist and Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University