While Nigeria is probably best known today for its oil deposits, the country is home to a rich diversity of forests and wildlife, including at least 899 species of birds, 274 mammals, 154 reptiles, 53 amphibians, and 4,715 species of higher plants. Nevertheless Nigeria's forests are some of the most threatened on the planet due to high population growth rates, conversion for subsistence and industrial agricultural, and logging.
As of late 2012, nearly half of Nigeria is forested (defined as land with more than 10 percent tree cover), but the country's rainforests are fast declining. According to the U.N., Nigeria lost nearly 80 percent of its old-growth forests between 1990 and 2005, giving the dubious distinction of having the highest deforestation rate of natural forest on the planet during that period.
Global Forest Watch map showing forest loss and gain in Nigeria between 2001-2012. Click image for an interactive map
Recent forest loss alerts. Click image to enlarge.
Most of Nigeria's rainforests are located in the Niger River Delta. The country's dense forests are concentrated in the stats of Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Rivers, and Taraba. Together those eight states account for nearly 95 percent of Nigeria's land area that has more than 50 percent tree cover.
Forest cover by state in Nigeria
|Total forest area||Dense forest area||Forest gain||Forest loss||Total land area|
|>10% tree cover (ha)||% total land cover||>50% tree cover (ha)||% total land cover||2001-2012 (ha)||% total forest cover||2001-2012 (ha)||% total forest cover||(ha)|
|Federal Capital Territory||584691||79.7%||178||0.0%||14||0.0%||14366||2.5%||733613|
Recent data from Matt Hansen and Global Forest Watch suggest that deforestation is rising in Nigeria.
This trend seems to be confirmed by the increasing number of NASA-based forest loss alerts.
Oil in Nigeria
In the 1990s, Nigeria became notorious for conflict linked to oil development in the Niger River Delta. The conflict was capped by the 1995 execution of eight environmental activists, including Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ken Saro-Wiwa who led opposition to Shell Oil's activities in the Ogoni homeland.
Nigeria environmental news
Elephant poaching rate unchanged – and still devastating
||Nigeria Forest Figures
Total forest area: 11,089,000 ha
% of land area: 12.2%
Primary forest cover: 326,000 ha
% of land area: 0.4%
% total forest area: 2.9%
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: -409,600 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -3.3%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: 31.2%
Total forest loss since 1990: -6,145,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-35.7%
Primary or "Old-growth" forests
Annual loss of primary forests: -82000 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -11.1%
Change in deforestation rate since '90s: 111.4%
Primary forest loss since 1990: -410,000 ha
Primary forest loss since 1990:-79.0%
Social services: 0%
Multiple purpose: 0%
None or unknown: 22.7
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 11,089,000 ha
Primary: 326,000 ha
Modified natural: 10,414,000 ha
Production plantation: 349,000 ha
Production plantation: n/a
Plantations, 2005: 349,000 ha
% of total forest cover: 3.1%
Annual change rate (00-05): 6,600,000 ha
Above-ground biomass: 2,261 M t
Below-ground biomass: 543 M t
Area annually affected by
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 560
Critically endangered: 16
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: 13,916,000 m3 o.b.
Wood fuel: 72,711,000 m3 o.b.
Value of forest products, 2005
Industrial roundwood: $1,527,288,000
Wood fuel: $475,429,000
Non-wood forest products (NWFPs): n/a
Total Value: $2,002,718,000
More forest statistics for Nigeria
New figures show essentially no change in the number of elephants killed in Africa by poachers last year, despite a high-profile meeting on the crisis which was attended by 46 countries and a number of commitments. Data from CITES' Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants (MIKE) estimated that around 20,000 elephants were killed in 2014, the same as in 2013.
World's rarest gorilla gets a new protected home
The Cross River Gorilla, the rarest and most threatened of gorilla subspecies, has reason to cheer. Last month, on September 29, the Prime Minister of Cameroon, Philemon Yang, signed a decree to officially create a new protected area – Tofala Wildlife Sanctuary – in the southwestern part of the country.
Scientists use genes, feces to study disappearing monkeys
Human pressures through tree clearing and poaching are reducing both forest and fauna in West Africa. In response to dwindling primate populations, scientists used genetics techniques to examine their makeup and outlook – demonstrating the usefulness of such methods in the study of animals that are becoming ever-fewer in number and ever-harder to find.
Don't eat or touch bat bushmeat amid worsening Ebola outbreak, UN warns
The world's worst Ebola outbreak was likely begun by a hunter shooting a fruit bat for their dinner or the market, according to the UN. The outbreak has killed over 660 people in six months to date, and recently spread via plane to Nigeria. The disease is particularly deadly with a mortality rate of around 90 percent.
Invasion of the oil palm: western Africa's native son returns, threatening great apes
As palm oil producers increasingly look to Africa’s tropical forests as suitable candidates for their next plantations, primate scientists are sounding the alarm about the destruction of ape habitat that can go hand in hand with oil palm expansion. A recent study sought to take those warnings a step further by quantifying the overlap in suitable oil palm land with current ape habitat.
Surrounded by deforestation, critically endangered gorillas hang on by a thread
The mountain forests at the Nigeria-Cameroon border are home to one of the rarest and most threatened subspecies of African apes – the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli
). Today, fewer than 300 individuals survive in the wild. These occur in 14 small, fragmented populations spread over a 12,000-square kilometer (4,633-square mile) landscape, characterized by rugged, hilly terrain and a matrix of farmlands, villages, and forests.
New report: illegal logging keeps militias and terrorist groups in business
Released last week by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) during the first United Nations Environment Assembly in Nairobi, Kenya, a new report found that together with other other illicit activities such as poaching, illegal deforestation is one of the top money-makers for criminal groups like Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab.
Deutsche Bank dumps controversial palm oil company
Deutsche Bank has sold its stake in Bumitama, an Indonesian palm company that has been embroiled in controversy over alleged destruction of rainforests and peatlands in Borneo, reports Friends of the Earth Europe.
Camera trap catches rare feline attempting to tackle armored prey (VIDEO)
One of the world's least known wild cats may have taken on more than it could handle in a recent video released by the Gashaka Biodiversity Project from Nigeria's biggest national park, Gashaka Gumti.
NASA detects surge in deforestation in Malaysia, Bolivia during first quarter of 2014
Forest disturbance in Malaysia, Bolivia, Panama, and Ecuador surged during the first quarter of 2014, according to NASA data.
Lions face extinction in West Africa: less than 250 survive
The lions of West Africa, which may represent a distinct subspecies, are on the precipice of extinction. A sober new study in PLOS ONE reports that less than 250 mature lions survive in the region. Scientists have long known that West Africa's lions were in trouble, but no one expected the situation to be as dire as it was. In fact, in 2012 scientists estimated the population at over 500. But looking at 21 parks, scientists were shocked to find lions persisted in just four with only one population containing more than 50 individuals.
Richest countries spent $74 billion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2011, eclipsing climate finance by seven times
In 2011, the top 11 richest carbon emitters spent an estimated $74 billion on fossil fuel subsidies, or seven times the amount spent on fast-track climate financing to developing nations, according to a recent report by the Overseas Development Institute. Worldwide, nations spent over half a trillion dollars on fossil fuel subsidies in 2011 according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Forgotten species: the nearly extinct primate that can be shot on sight
The attention paid to charismatic popular primates—such as gorillas, chimps, orangutans, lion tamarins, and even some lemurs—could make one suppose that conservationists have the protection of our closest relatives well in hand; the astounding fact that no primate species is known to have gone extinct in the last hundred years (despite large-scale destruction of their habitats) seems to confirm this statement. However, looking more closely at the data, one finds that not only are many of the world's primates slipping toward extinction, but a number of them have received little conservation attention. According to the IUCN Red List, a staggering 48 percent of the world's primates are threatened with extinction: that's a worse percentage than amphibians which have been ravaged by a global epidemic. And although a handful of the world's 600-plus primates have garnered conservation adoration, many remain obscure.
Illegal marijuana cultivation threatens Nigeria’s forests and chimps
The world’s highest deforestation rate, the execution of eight environmental activists including a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and ongoing turmoil surrounding oil operations in the Niger River Delta has created a notoriously disreputable environmental record for the West African country. Now, a new threat is rising in the already-compromised forests of Nigeria: illegal marijuana cultivation.
Fertility in Africa could push world population over 11 billion
The global population could grow by another 4 billion people by the end of the century if fertility rates in Africa don't decline, according to a new report by the United Nations. Currently around 1.1 billion people live on the continent, but that number could skyrocket
to 4.2 billion (a 380 percent increase) by 2100, causing global population to hit 11 billion.
Top security official in Nigeria blames climate change for worsening insecurity
Climate change is in part to blame for rising conflict and crime in Nigeria, according to the president's National Security Advisor, Colonel Sambo Dasuki. Speaking to the House Committee on Climate Change, Dasuki said that the rise of Boko Haram insurgents, a jihadist group in northern Nigeria, and worsening crime was linked to climate change reports All Africa.
An insidious threat to tropical forests: over-hunting endangers tree species in Asia and Africa
A fruit falls to the floor in a rainforest. It waits. And waits. Inside the fruit is a seed, and like most seeds in tropical forests, this one needs an animal—a good-sized animal—to move it to a new place where it can germinate and grow. But it may be waiting in vain. Hunting and poaching has decimated many mammal and bird populations across the tropics, and according to two new studies the loss of these important seed-disperser are imperiling the very nature of rainforests.
Guide for filing complaints on rule-breaking by palm oil companies published
Over the past 25 years palm oil production has emerged as one of the biggest drivers of deforestation and peatlands degradation in Southeast Asia. And there are fears that expansion in West and Central Africa could soon make palm oil a major cause of forest conversion on that continent.
Suggested reading - Books
CIA-World Factbook Profile
World Resources Institute