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Swamp Forest Use and Loss in the Niger Delta: Contextual and Underlying Issues

DOI: 10.4236/ojf.2017.71003, PP. 34-47

Keywords: Community Forest Management, Ecosystem Services, Forest Loss, Resilience, Sustainable Management

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Abstract:

Forest ecosystems are vital not only for the ecosystem and biogeochemical processes, but also for the livelihood of forest dependent communities for which its continual existence is a necessity. This study explored the pattern of forest use in the hinterlands of the Niger Delta and sought to elucidate the drivers of forest loss and how the ownership and management of the forest plots influenced the changes in the forest ecosystem. Ecosystem services reduction and forest loss/degradation were found to be increasing over the years due to crude oil activities, urbanization/developments, population increase, agricultural activities and natural causes like flood. While each factor contributed to forest loss directly and indirectly, and varied from community to community, agricultural activities and population growth were responsible for most of the losses across the landscape. Even though agricultural activities were essential and thrived in the region, sustainable forest (land) uses could have reduced the associated implications of such land uses; but this was however hampered by the farming practises (shifting cultivation) across most of the communities. Lack of proper, effective and sustainable forest management structures, poor individual commitment and monitoring of forest activities were found to encourage forest loss at different spatial scales. Provision of alternative sources of livelihood and ensuring that suitable guidelines on forest abstraction and harvest are enforced across the region, are steps to promoting biodiversity conservation and resource management.

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