While Liberia's brutal civil war delayed the commercial exploitation of its rainforests during the 1990s, "conflict timber" was a key source of revenue for warring factions. The harvesting of this wood, combined with collateral damage from military operations and wildlife poaching, took a heavy toll on Liberia's forests. With the end of the war, Liberia's new government—which took power at end of the war in 1998—immediately established forestry as a national priority and instituted a five-year tax holiday on timber industries. This policy, combined with the return of commercial interests to the country, repopulation, and reconstruction efforts, has put pressure on Liberia's remaining forest resources. Since the close of the 1990s, deforestation rates have increased by 17 percent, and primary forest cover in the country has fallen to just over 1.3 percent of the total land area (or 4.1 percent of the forest cover).
||Liberia Forest Figures
Total forest area: 3,154,000 ha
% of land area: 32.7%
Primary forest cover: 129,000 ha
% of land area: 1.3%
% total forest area: 4.1%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: -60,200 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -1.8%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: 17.3%
Total forest loss since 1990: -904,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-22.3%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: n/a
Annual deforestation rate: n/a
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990: n/a
Primary forest loss since 1990:0.0%
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: 48.3%
None or unknown: 6.2
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 3,154,000 ha
Primary: 129,000 ha
Modified natural: 3,017,000 ha
Production plantation: 8,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a
Plantations, 2005: 8,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 0.3%
Annual change rate (00-05): n/a
Above-ground biomass: 731 M t
Below-ground biomass: 175 M t
Area annually affected by
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: n/a
Critically endangered: 0
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: n/a
Wood fuel: 5,918,000 m3 o.b.
Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: n/a
Wood fuel: n/a
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: n/a
More forest statistics for Liberia
After granting large concessions to timber firms, the Liberian government essentially lost control over logging in much of the country. In June 2005, the director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Liberia warned that the forest and its associated resources were at a very "high risk of facing depletion" from illegal logging and land invasions by gold miners.
Since the United Nations Security imposed strict sanctions on Liberia in 2003, the government has not legitimately earned any revenue from the timber sector. As such, virtually all logging in Liberia has been illegal and will continue to be until the country is able to meet conditions set forth by the UN which include: increased transparency in timber transactions, government control over the forestry sector, and the banishment of the use of militias by logging firms. Until the government is able to rein in illicit activities in the country's forests, illegal logging will continue to take a heavy toll on Liberia's natural resources. Further pressure from subsistence activities—about 98% of the country's energy needs are met by fuelwood and charcoal according to the ITTO—will not help the situation.
Despite these challenges, things may be looking up for Liberia's forests. After announcing the expansion of Sapo National Park and the creation of the Nimba Nature Reserve in 2003, the government has worked with international NGOs to monitor and address illegal activities in the country's national park. In November 2005, Conservation International (CI) led a survey to assess Liberia`s remaining biodiversity. At last count, the country was home to 2,200 species of plants, 193 mammals, and 576 bird species.
On paper, nearly 16 percent of Liberia is now under some form of protection.
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Investors beware: global land grabbing ends in 'financial damage' and human rights violations
(02/07/2013) Investing in companies that flout local community rights in developing countries often leads to severe economic losses, according to a new report from the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). A rising trend in "land grabbing" from Africa to South America by corporations and even foreign governments results in social instability, which can lead to large-scale protests, violence, and even murder, delaying and sometimes derailing projects. Such instability poses massive risk to any investor, not to mention supporting corporate entities that are accused of ignoring human rights.
40% of Liberia's forests granted for logging
(09/04/2012) 40 percent of Liberia's forests have been granted to logging companies operating outside the country's strict forestry laws, alleges a new investigation by Global Witness, Save My Future Foundation (SAMFU) and Sustainable Development Institute (SDI).
Ten African nations pledge to transform their economies to take nature into account
(06/11/2012) Last month ten African nations, led by Botswana, pledged to incorporate "natural capital" into their economies. Natural capital, which seeks to measure the economic worth of the services provided by ecosystems and biodiversity—for example pollination, clean water, and carbon—is a nascent, but growing, method to curtail environmental damage and ensure more sustainable development. Dubbed the Gaborone Declaration, the pledge was signed by Botswana, Liberia, Namibia, Mozambique, Rwanda, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania following a two day summit.
The camera trap revolution: how a simple device is shaping research and conservation worldwide
(02/14/2012) I must confess to a recent addiction: camera trap photos. When the Smithsonian released 202,000 camera trap photos to the public online, I couldn’t help but spend hours transfixed by the private world of animals. There was the golden snub-monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana), with its unmistakably blue face staring straight at you, captured on a trail in the mountains of China. Or a southern tamandua (Tamandua tetradactyla), a tree anteater that resembles a living Muppet, poking its nose in the leaf litter as sunlight plays on its head in the Peruvian Amazon. Or the dim body of a spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta) led by jewel-like eyes in the Tanzanian night. Or the less exotic red fox (Vulpes vulpes) which admittedly appears much more exotic when shot in China in the midst of a snowstorm. Even the giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), an animal I too often connect with cartoons and stuffed animals, looks wholly real and wild when captured by camera trap: no longer a symbol or even a pudgy bear at the zoo, but a true animal with its own inner, mysterious life.
Mysterious pygmy hippo filmed in Liberia
(12/19/2011) Conservationists have captured the first ever footage (see video below) of the elusive pygmy hippo (Choeropsis liberiensis) in Liberia. The forest-dwelling, nocturnal species—weighing only a quarter of the size of the well-known common hippo (Hippopotamus amphibius)—has proven incredibly difficult to study. But the use of camera traps in Liberia's Sapo National Park has allowed researchers a glimpse into its cryptic life.
Liberia fights illegal logging through agreement with EU
(05/10/2011) The tiny West African nation of Liberia (about the size of the US state of Virginia) is the most recent country to work with the European Union (EU) on ending the illegal logging trade. Yesterday the EU and Liberia signed a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) that would make certain no raw wood or wood products exported from Liberia to the EU would have been illegally cut.
Chainsaw Milling: Domestic Unregulated Deforestation Agents or Local Entrepreneurs?
(05/10/2011) Chainsaw milling: supplier to local markets, provides a much needed insight into the generally unregulated on-site conversion of logs into lumber using chainsaws for tropical in-country domestic markets. Tropical forest chainsaw milling juxtaposes local economic benefit with lack, unregulated oversight.
'Land grab' fears in Africa legitimate
(01/31/2011) A new report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has found that recent large-scale land deals in Africa are likely to provide scant benefit to some of the world's poorest and most famine-prone nations and will probably create new social and environmental problems. Analyzing 12 recent land leasing contracts investigators found a number of concerns, including contracts that are only a few pages long, exclusion of local people, and in one case actually giving land away for free. Many of the contracts last for 100 years, threatening to separate local communities from the land they live on indefinitely. "Most contracts for large-scale land deals in Africa are negotiated in secret," explains report author Lorenzo Cotula in a press release. "Only rarely do local landholders have a say in those negotiations and few contracts are publicly available after they have been signed."
95% of Liberia's elephants killed by poachers
(01/24/2011) Since the 1980s, Liberia has lost 19,000 elephants to illegal poaching, according to Patrick Omondi of the Kenya Wildlife Service speaking in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia. The poaching of Liberia's elephants has cut the population by 95% leaving only 1,000 elephants remaining.
Facing moratorium and criticism in Indonesia, Sinar Mas looks to Liberia for new palm oil opportunities
(09/05/2010) Singapore's Golden Agri-Resources, a holding of the embattled Sinar Mas Group, said it will form a partnership with the government of Liberia to establish a 220,000-hectare plantation in the West African nation, reports the Jakarta Globe.
Massive forest carbon scam alleged in Liberia
(06/10/2010) Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf established a commission investigate a proposed forest carbon credit deal between the West African nation's Forest Development Authority (FDA) and UK-based Carbon Harvesting Corporation, reports Global Witness, an NGO that originally raised concerns about the scheme, which aimed to secure around a fifth of Liberia's total forest area — 400,000 hectares — in a forest carbon concession.
Forestry sector needs transparency to reduce risks of REDD
(01/25/2010) A new project aims to increase transparency in the forestry sector, an area long plagued by corruption and mismanagement.
Pygmy hippo shot and killed in…Australia
(11/17/2009) Hunters going after pigs in Australia's Northwest Territories got a big surprise when they shot an animal they mistook for a pig, only to find out it was a pygmy hippopotamus, reports the Northwest Territory News.
Sime Darby signs palm oil deal in Liberia
(05/04/2009) Sime Darby, a Malaysian palm oil producer, will invest $800 million in palm oil and rubber plantations in Liberia, reports Reuters.
80% of wars between 1950-2000 took place in biodiversity hotspots
(02/22/2009) 80 percent of the world's major armed conflicts between 1950 and 2000 occurred in biodiversity hotspots, reports a study published in the journal Conservation Biology.
14 countries win REDD funding to protect tropical forests
(07/24/2008) Fourteen countries have been selected by the World Bank to receive funds for conserving their tropical forests under an innovative carbon finance scheme.
Photos of rare pygmy hippo in Liberia
(03/12/2008) It's almost as though this normally shy mammal were posing for the camera. The black-and-white image of a pygmy hippopotamus half-facing the camera is the first ever of a pygmy hippopotamus in Liberia. Perhaps even more astonishing EDGE, the organization that accomplished the photo, believes the image to be only the second photographic evidence of the animal in the wild (the first was taken in 2006 in Sierra Leone). This incredibly secretive animal is usually known through its prints and dung.
Logging resumes in Liberia
(07/17/2006) As former US president Bill Clinton arrives in Liberia to meet with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, it's time to take a look at the state of the forests in the country. While Liberia's brutal civil war delayed the commercial exploitation of its tropical forests during the 1990s, 'conflict timber' was a key source of revenue for warring factions. The harvesting of this wood, combined with collateral damage from military operations and wildlife poaching, took a heavy toll on Liberia's forests. With the end of the war, Liberia's new government--which took power at end of the war in 1998--immediately established forestry as a national priority and instituted a five-year tax holiday on timber industries. This policy, combined with the return of commercial interests to the country, repopulation, and reconstruction efforts, has put pressure on Liberia's remaining forest resources. Since the close of the 1990s, deforestation rates have increased by 17 percent, and primary forest cover in the country has fallen to just over 1.3 percent of the total land area (or 4.1 percent of the forest cover).
Environmentalists awarded prestigious prize for grassroots work
(04/24/2006) Tonight six grassroots environmentalists will be awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize. This year's winners include a Vietnam veteran fighting Pentagon plans to incinerate chemical weapons stockpiles, a man who tipped the United Nations to illegal logging in war-torn Liberia, the person behind the creation of the world's largest area of protected tropical rainforest, a lawyer in Ukraine who helped block the construction of canal that would have cut through the heart of the Danube Delta, a woman who won resitution for indigenous land owners from logging interests in Papua New Guinea, and a researcher who pushed social impact assessments for major dam developments in China.
Goodbye to West Africa's Rainforests
(01/22/2006) West Africa's once verdant and extensive rainforests are now a historical footnote. Gone to build ships and furniture, feed hungry mouths, and supply minerals and gems to the West, the band of tropical forests that once extended from Guinea to Cameroon are virtually gone. The loss of West Africa's rainforests have triggered a number of environmental problems that have contributed to social unrest and exacerbated poverty across the region.
Suggested reading - Books
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Last updated: 4 Feb 2006