NASA's Landsat 5 satellite captured the left-side image on July 19, 1986, while
NASA's Landsat 7 satellite captured the right-side image
on December 11, 2001. Densely forested areas are deep green.
Satellite images released by NASA show nearly complete destruction
of Rwanda's Gishwati Forest between 1986 and 2001.
Deforestation of the forest reserve is largely the result
of subsistence harvesting and cultivation by refugees in
the aftermath of the country's 1994 genocide.
Overall only 600 hectares of Gishwati's original
100,000 hectares of forest remain, a loss of 99.4 percent.
"According to UNEP, the reserve's forests
were largely intact in 1978, and substantial forest
cover still remained in 1986.
But in the 15 years that elapsed between
these images—a time that spanned
the country's tragic genocide—wave after
wave of refugees arrived in Gishwati Forest
and began clearing it, often for
subsistence farming," wrote Michon Scott
and Rebecca Lindsey on NASA's Earth
"By 2001, only a small circular patch of
native forest remained—1,500 acres
of the forest's original 250,000."
Large tea estates and plantations now
occupy the park, which is located
in the northwestern part of the country.
The loss of forest has carried significant
environmental costs, says NASA.
"Rwandan deforestation was driven
by the need for food, medicine, charcoal,
and timber, especially for commercial products.
But the loss of so many trees in a rainy,
mountainous country has had
severe environmental consequences,"
write Scott and Lindsey.
"In addition to tremendous loss
of biodiversity, the region experiences
soil erosion and degradation and landslides."
Conservationists are now working
to restore a corridor of native forest
between Gishwati and Nyungwe Forest
National Park, in southern Rwanda.
The initiative would provide connectivity
for wildlife — including
chimpanzees — to move between forest areas.Link here
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