How Furniture Demand in America Thins Forests Across Central Africa

Sustainable logging in Cameroon.

Logging to feed furniture factories in China, spurred by demand from the United States, is thinning the forests of Central Africa, recent research has found.

Lead author Trevon Fuller, an ecologist at the University of California–Los Angeles, said he previously learned about research demonstrating that, as the demand for ivory in China rose, so did the incidence of elephant poaching in East Africa. That led him to wonder if a similar connection might be instigating the loss of forest in Central Africa’s Congo Basin, home to the world’s second-largest rainforest.

Once the research was underway, “The question came up: What’s driving these Chinese companies to extract timber from Central Africa?” Fuller said.

The answer? “It’s just an unbelievable amount of demand from [consumers] in the U.S.,” he said.

Fuller and his colleagues started by pulling together the statistics on timber exports from five Central African countries to China between 2001 and 2015. During that period, China more than doubled its imports of wood from the Congo Basin and eclipsed the European Union as the region’s biggest export market.

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