High-value timber species in Tanzania’s coastal forests will be exhausted in 30 years

High- value timber species in Tanzania’s coastal forests will be exhausted in 30 years, according to research by Tanzanian and UK scientists.

Tanzanian officials and NGOs have met to discuss the findings of Saving Forests, Changing Lives, a project aimed at surveying the extent of charcoal and timber driven degradation in coastal forests. The project, led by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), WWF Tanzania, the Tanzanian Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), and University of East Anglia, compared data from 2005 to assess the spread of charcoal and timber producing zones in Pwani and Lindi Regions.

The study also found carbon storage has dropped by 40% in Pwani Region. Forest loss and degradation in the tropics is one of the biggest contributors to carbon emissions.

Speaking at the meeting, Dr Antje Ahrends, Head of Genetics and Conservation at RBGE, said: “Our overriding aim is to quantify and predict the extent and spread of logging and to empower policy makers and local communities with knowledge resources to safe-guard forests and improve livelihoods’’.

Isaac Malugu, WWF Forest Programme Coordinator, added: “Coastal forests are among one of the priority eco-regions in Tanzania and globally. WWF Tanzania has prioritized coastal forests as many of the diverse species are subjected to serious degradation and deforestation. The current deforestation rate of about 372,000Ha is high.”

Funded by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the project conducted livelihoods surveys to learn more about the role of charcoal production for income generation. It also launched an animated film in more than 75 coastal forest schools to raise awareness of the value of forests and the importance of community engagement amongst the next generation.

Dr William Kindeketa, Biodiversity Researcher at COSTECH, called for more action. ‘We need to adapt new approaches to halt the high deforestation rates in Tanzania, otherwise we may lose many of our forests”, he concluded.

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a charity (registration number SC007983)