Forest loss during 2000–2019 in pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis) habitats was driven by shifting agriculture

Erazo-Mera, Estefania, Younes, Nicolas, Horwood, Paul, Paris, Damien, Paris, Monique, and Murray, Nicholas (2024) Forest loss during 2000–2019 in pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis) habitats was driven by shifting agriculture. Environmental Conservation, 51 (1). pp. 55-63.

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The Upper Guinea Forest (UGF; West Africa), a global biodiversity hotspot, has lost more than 90% of its original area since 1900, threatening endemic species such as the endangered pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis). However, little is known about the proximate causes of this deforestation. We classified Sentinel-2 data using the random forest algorithm to differentiate between three main human processes (shifting agriculture, intensive agriculture or urban expansion) driving deforestation between 2000 and 2019 across the pygmy hippopotamus distribution area. Out of c. 89 600 km2 in the year 2000, 15 900 km2 (17%) of forest were lost, primarily to shifting agriculture (14 900 km2). Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia accounted for 14 900 km2 (94%) of the net area of forest lost, c. 15 times greater than deforestation in Sierra Leone and Guinea combined (953 km2). Forest loss inside protected areas is pervasive, and it is essential to prioritize conservation efforts in areas where deforestation is still low (e.g., Taï, Sapo and Gola Rainforest national parks). We suggest that the preservation of the UGF will face challenges associated with people’s demand for food and income. Continued landscape-scale planning and action to reduce deforestation are urgently needed to limit the impact of shifting agriculture on pygmy hippopotamus habitat.

Item ID: 81318
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0376-8929
Keywords: Conservation; deforestation; protected areas; remote sensing; Sentinel-2; West Africa
Copyright Information: © The Author(s), 2023. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Foundation for Environmental Conservation. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC)
Projects and Grants: ARC DE190100101
Date Deposited: 07 Dec 2023 02:08
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 35%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410402 Environmental assessment and monitoring @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3109 Zoology > 310999 Zoology not elsewhere classified @ 15%
SEO Codes: 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 30%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1806 Terrestrial systems and management > 180603 Evaluation, allocation, and impacts of land use @ 70%
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