The African wet tropics (West Africa and the Congo Basin) contain the second largest area of tropical rainforest in the world, accounting for roughly 30% of global rainforest cover. The forests have global significance and value as reservoirs of biodiversity, and stores and sinks of atmospheric carbon, as sources of moisture in the heart of an arid continent, and as a key component of the Earth system and global atmospheric circulation, and as providers of resources to local communities and the region’s nations. They also seem sensitive to changes in climate and human pressure, and have apparently contracted and expanded throughout prehistory. However, the region has seen relatively little systematic scientific study. Over the 21st century, the region has the potential to witness substantial change, both through an expansion of extraction, hunting and deforestation, and through the effects of global climate change.
This conference, hosted by the Oxford Centre for Tropical Forests in January 2012 provides a multidisciplinary examination of the fate of African tropical forests in the 21st century. The conference asked the questions:
- What are the potential scenarios of climate change and land use change for African forest regions?
- What do we know about the sensitivity of African forests and their communities to these changes, and what consequences will these changes have for the future of the region?
- How can this knowledge influence policy decisions on development and climate change adaptation?
- What are the gaps in our knowledge and priorities for research?
At a time of increased global interest in the future of tropical forests, we intend this to be a key international event that synthesises existing knowledge and fosters creative thinking and collaboration on the future of this important region.
The aim of the conference is to synthesise a scientific and authoritative summary of scientific insights into the future of African tropical forests, which will then be disseminated to a wider audience as an evidence base to inform decision-making. A variety of approaches will be employed to facilitate outreach:
- Conference presentations and discussions can be downloaded.
- Concise syntheses on key issues (in English and French) produced after workshop, disseminated to policy makers in African governments and international and local NGOs.
- Publications in special issue of high impact scientific journal (e.g. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society).
- Edited book based on compilation of special issue papers.
- At least one synthesis paper in high impact journal.
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