Impacts of civil conﬂict on primary forest habitat in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1990–2010
Janet Nackoney, Giuseppe Molinario, Peter Potapov, Svetlana Turubanova, Matthew C. Hansen, Takeshi Furuichi
War and civil conﬂict have been shown to contribute directly to increased wildlife poaching and environ-
mental degradation, especially in developing countries. The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) suffered
heightened political instability that intensiﬁed during its ﬁrst (1996–1997) and second (1998–2003) civil
wars. Ground-based observations reported severe impacts on wildlife from increased human reliance on
bushmeat as well as evidence of human populations moving deeper into interior forests to escape con-
ﬂict. Both were observed in the study area comprised of forests in and around Luo Scientiﬁc Reserve
located in northern DRC, where studies on wild bonobos (Pan paniscus) have been conducted since
1973. Using Landsat TM and ETM + satellite imagery, we employed an automated classiﬁcation tree algo-
rithm developed speciﬁcally for Central Africa to monitor wartime patterns of human migration and
resource use in the study area. We analyzed and compared primary forest loss and degradation rates
across two decades (1990–2010). Annual rates of primary forest loss occurring during the 1990–2000
decade were over double the rates of the mainly post-war 2000–2010 decade, indicating higher human
pressure on the forests during wartime. Maps and analyses of peripheral forests occurring around the
edges of forest clearings illustrated an increased prevalence of small, scattered clearings during the
war. We also found evidence showing there was likely less human pressure on interior forests after
the wars ended. We demonstrate the utility of satellite-based remote sensing techniques for monitoring
human access in interior forests and examining wartime links to observed declines in wildlife.
in Smithsonian Magazine FEBRUARY 26, 2014
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