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Why More Roads in the Congo Basin Could Lead to Increased Deforestation

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Scenes from Pallisco Logging company’s FSC Timber operations in Mindourou, Cameroon,

The length of roads in Congo Basin logging concessions has doubled since 2003, according to new research, raising concerns about the impacts of these incursions into the world’s second-largest bank of tropical forest.

The authors of the study, published June 24th in the journal Nature Sustainability, note that roads allow people to enter new frontiers, often leading to a contagion of deforestation for agriculture and increased hunting of the animals found there.

“That obviously bodes alarmingly for everything from forest elephants to gorillas and chimpanzees and lots of other wildlife that are subject to hunting,” William Laurance, a tropical ecologist and professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, said in an interview.

Deforestation rates around the oldest roads in the Congo Basin are about four times what they were at the beginning of the 21st century, and numbers of key species have dropped off considerably. There are only about a third as many forest elephants alive today compared to 10 years ago, for example.

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