Storms in West Africa Lead to Deforestation

The frequency of thunderstorms in the western African region has caused much concern, specifically about the environment. It has raised questions about deforestation in the area. “It is widely known that removal of vegetation increases rainwater runoff and the risk of mudslides, which happened in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, in August 2017 when 1,100 people died. But research led by the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) has now revealed that more frequent storm activity in coastal areas is a second, previously unrecognized, way in which deforestation can increase flooding,” an article by the UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology explains.

The research relies on over three decades of information throughout southern West Africa to see which regions have been affected by deforestation from the storms. “The researchers found the removal of large areas of woodland had greatly exacerbated the effects of global warming in coastal areas of the region, which includes Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria. In deforested areas, the frequency of storms has doubled since 1991, while the increase in forested areas has been around 40 percent,” states the article.

However, there is some hope for these areas. The cleared land has been used for farming, as well as finding fuel for cooking in order to support nearby populations. 

Professor Chris Taylor of UKCEH, who led the study, published in the journal PNAS, says: “The extent of increase in coastal storm activity is likely to vary in different regions, depending on the local climate, but we would expect deforestation to have a similar effect in other coastal deforested areas.“Around 40 percent of the world’s population lives within 100km of the coast (according to United Nations figures), so increases in flash flooding causes disruption to millions of people’s lives. Our findings, therefore, provide a warning to fast-growing coastal cities across the world.”

While the effects of climate change are felt at the cost of our trees and forests, we also find hope for sustenance with the farming and oil mining done with the cleared areas. But this doesn’t mean that climate change should continue. Despite the ways that we have adapted to climate change, it is still best to conserve and return the world to the state it was before.

Categories: Environmental