Nigeria has one of the worst environmental records in the world. In recent years, the country has seen the execution of a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, widespread social and environmental problems stemming from oil operations in the Niger River delta, and the world's highest deforestation rate.
||Mauritania Forest Figures
Total forest area: 267,000 ha
% of land area: 0.3%
Primary forest cover: n/a
% of land area: n/a
% total forest area: n/a
Deforestation Rates, 2000-2005
Annual change in forest cover: -10,000 ha
Annual deforestation rate: -3.4%
Change in defor. rate since '90s: 33.6%
Total forest loss since 1990: -148,000 ha
Total forest loss since 1990:-35.7%
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:n/a
Social services: n/a
Multiple purpose: n/a
None or unknown: 100
Forest Area Breakdown
Total area: 267,000 ha
Modified natural: n/a
Production plantation: n/a
Production plantation: n/a
Plantations, 2005: n/a
% of total forest cover: n/a
Annual change rate (00-05): n/a
Above-ground biomass: 10 M t
Below-ground biomass: 3 M t
Area annually affected by
Number of tree species in IUCN red list
Number of native tree species: 52
Critically endangered: 0
Wood removal 2005
Industrial roundwood: n/a
Wood fuel: n/a
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 Mauritania
In late 1995, Nigeria's execution of eight environmental activists, notably Nobel Peace Prize nominee Ken Saro-Wiwa, made international headlines and brought worldwide recognition of the serious environmental degradation of Nigeria.
The Niger River delta of Nigeria is home to coastal rainforest, mangrove forest, and rich oil deposits. Petroleum exploration in this region by Shell Oil began in 1958, and the company has since extracted tens of billions of dollars worth of oil and natural gas. While Nigeria has seen tremendous amounts of revenue from these operations, oil has had a high cost to the country. Locals, like the Ogoni tribesmen, have seen relatively little revenue from operations but plenty of problems including pollution and deforestation, and today many of these people live in miserable poverty.
In 1990, Saro-Wiwa led the Ogoni to demand that Shell turn over more oil revenue to locals and clean up oil pollution. In response to these demands and an uprising among local communities, the government—then a military dictatorship—savagely put down the rebellion. Reports suggest that Shell played a role in arming the soldiers to quash the protests. In November 1995, the government executed Saro-Wiwa, while Shell responded a few weeks later by announcing it would take part in a new gas project in the delta.
During the 1990s, locals learned that extortion pays. Villagers found that by sabotaging oil installations to collect oil-spill compensation from Shell they could earn more than by marginal subsistence farming on degraded lands. Attacks on oil facilities and pipelines became ever more relentless, and the Niger River delta was an increasingly bloody place. Environmental degradation from operations continued, and by 1999 the U.N. named the delta the most threatened in the world.
In early 2006, conditions worsened in the delta. The number of kidnappings of oil workers increased as did attacks on oil facilities. Kidnappers who usually wanted ransom payments began asking for the release of jailed militants and greater rights to the region's oil. A senior Shell security official told The Economist that Nigeria was losing control of the region and oil traders began to price the risk of Nigerian civil war into future oil projections
While billions of dollars in oil revenue poured into Nigeria, most of the country's income was squandered, stolen, or spent propping up the ruling military government during this period. Despite a stipulation in the constitution requiring that 13 percent of oil revenues be channeled back into oil communities, locals saw very little money. Most community assistance in the delta actually come from Shell—not the government. In 1997, Shell spent some $36 million on community-assistance programs.
While oil has certainly had a social impact in the delta, the direct environmental effects from oil operations are probably, in general, overstated. Oil companies are easy targets because their operations are highly visible and villagers receive few benefits while shouldering the environmental and social costs. According to Moffat and Lindén (1995) there is relatively little evidence of widespread contamination from petroleum in Nigeria, partly because its crude is very light and evaporates rapidly. Moffat and Lindén say that pollution from oil activities should probably be given only a moderate priority in light of Nigeria's other severe environmental problems, namely deforestation resulting from road projects (often sponsored by oil companies), subsistence activities, logging, mining, and dam construction. However, oil production in Nigeria does contribute to global warming because the country flares (flaring refers to the burning of excess gas that comes up with crude) more gas than any other country. The methane produced has a much higher global-warming potential than carbon dioxide (64 times as active a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide).
Deforestation is a serious problem in Nigeria, which currently has one of the highest rates of forest loss (3.3 percent) in the world. Since 1990, the country has lost some 6.1 million hectares or 35.7 percent of its forest cover. Worse, Nigeria's most biodiverse ecosystems—its old-growth forests—are disappearing at an even faster rate. Between 1990 and 2005, the country lost a staggering 79 percent of these forests and since 2000 Nigeria has been losing an average of 11 percent of its primary forests per year—double the rate of the 1990s. These figures give Nigeria the dubious distinction of having the highest deforestation rate of natural forest on the planet.
Nigeria's new and more accountable government is concerned about rising deforestation and environmental degradation—which costs the country over $6 billion a year. Nevertheless, it has failed to curb illegal logging and other forms of degradation, and only 6 percent of the country is nominally protected on paper. Timber concessions have been granted in national parks, and oil-palm plantations are replacing natural forest. Past governments have tried to stem forest loss through a ban on log exports, promoting of agroforestry and community-based conservation schemes, increasing energy and fuel efficiency, and encouraging plantations and reforestation programs to achieve a target of 25 percent forest cover. But the impact appears to be limited given Nigeria's astounding deforestation rate.
As its forests fall, Nigeria has seen wildlife populations plummet from poaching and habitat loss, increasing desertification and soil erosion. There has also been a drop in the productivity of coastal and inland fisheries, and mounting social unrest in parts of the country. It appears that Nigeria's swift economic development has exacted a high toll on its people and environment.
Despite its environmental degradation, Nigeria has striking biodiversity. Home to gorillas, chimpanzees, baboons, and elephants, the country has 899 species of birds, 274 mammals, 154 reptiles, 53 amphibians, and 4,715 species of higher plants.
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Top security official in Nigeria blames climate change for worsening insecurity
(04/25/2013) 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
(04/04/2013) 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
(02/28/2013) 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.
As U.S. sees record heat, extreme weather pummels 4 continents
(07/10/2012) It's not only the U.S. that has experienced record-breaking extreme weather events recently, in the last couple months extreme weather has struck around the world with startling ferocity. In addition to the much-covered heatwaves, wildfires, and droughts in the U.S., killer floods struck India, the worst drought yet recorded plagued South Korea, and massive forest fires swept through Siberia to name just a few.
Alarm rising over food crisis in Sahel region
(06/13/2012) Warnings over a possible famine in Africa's Sahel region are becoming louder and more intense. Abnormal drought, locally high food prices, and regional conflict have ramped up concerns that 18 million people could suffer from malnutrition and starvation as the lean season sets in. UNICEF says it needs $238 million to save over a million children from severe malnourishment in the region, but has to date only raised $93 million.
First camera trap video of world's rarest gorilla includes shocking charge
(05/08/2012) Ever wonder what it would be like to be charged by a male gorilla? A new video (below) released by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), gives one a first hand look. Shot in Cameroon's Kagwene Gorilla Sanctuary, the video is the first camera trap footage of the incredibly rare Cross River gorilla subspecies (Gorilla gorilla diehli); listed as Critically Endangered, the subspecies is believed to be down to only 250 individuals.
15 million facing food shortages in Africa's Sahel region
(03/29/2012) The UN announced yesterday that food security in the Sahel region is deteriorating, putting over 15 million people at risk. Ongoing drought combined with conflict, has pushed the region into a crisis. The situation appears eerily similar to last year when Somalia was hit by a devastating famine due to drought and political instability; the famine left an estimated 30,000 children dead.
Shell spills over 50,000 gallons of oil off Scotland
(08/16/2011) Yesterday, Royal Dutch Shell estimated that to date 54,600 gallons of oil had spilled into the North Sea off the east coast of Scotland, spreading some 19 miles wide (30 kilometers) at its maximum. While the company stopped the initial leak on Thursday, it has now announced that the oil has found a 'second pathway' and is still leaking into the sea around 84 gallons a day.
Oil horror in Nigeria: 30 years, one billion dollars to clean-up
(08/08/2011) Fifty years of oil spills in Nigeria's now infamous Ogoniland region will take up to three decades and over a billion dollars ($1 billion for just the first five years) to restore environments to healthy conditions, according to a new independent report by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The most thorough study to date has found that widespread pollution has hit the Niger Delta even harder than assumed with devastating impacts on fishing grounds and community health. Last week Shell, one of the biggest operators in Nigeria, admitted to two massive oil spills in 2008 totaling 11 million gallons of crude.
Saving (and studying) one of Nigeria's last montane forests
(07/26/2011) Between 2000 and 2010, Nigeria lost nearly a third (31 percent) of its forest cover, while its primary forests suffered even worse: in just five years (2000 to 2005) over half of the nation's primary forests were destroyed, the highest rate in the world during that time. Yet, Nigeria's dwindling forests have never received the same attention as many other country's, such as Indonesia, Brazil, Malaysia, or Peru, even though in many ways Nigeria struggles with even deeper problems than other developing nations. Despite vast oil business, the nation is plagued by poverty and destitution, a prime example of what economists call the 'resource curse'. Environmentally, it has been named one of the worst in the world. Yet, not all forest news out of Nigeria is bleak: the success of the Nigerian Montane Forest Project in one of the country's remaining forests is one such beacon of hope, and one example of how the country could move forward.
Conservationists seek $15M for rarest chimp
(06/27/2011) A new conservation plan calls for $14.6 million to save the world's rarest subspecies of chimp: the Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee, reports the Wildlife Conservation Scoeity (WCS).
How do we save Africa's forests?
(06/19/2011) Africa's forests are fast diminishing to the detriment of climate, biodiversity, and millions of people of dependent on forest resources for their well-being. But is the full conservation of Africa's forests necessary to mitigate global climate change and ensure environmental stability in Africa? A new report by The Forest Philanthropy Action Network (FPAN), a non-profit that provides research-based advice on funding forest conservation, argues that only the full conservation of African forests will successfully protect carbon stocks in Africa.
Photos: the top ten new species discovered in 2010
(05/23/2011) If we had to characterize our understanding of life on Earth as either ignorant or knowledgeable, the former would be most correct. In 250 years of rigorous taxonomic work researchers have cataloged nearly two million species, however scientists estimate the total number of species on Earth is at least five million and perhaps up to a hundred million. This means every year thousands of new species are discovered by researchers, and from these thousands, the International Institute for Species Exploration at Arizona State University selects ten especially notable new species.
Palm oil lobby attacks World Bank's new social and environmental safeguards
(04/18/2011) Groups funded by the palm oil industry lashed out at the World Bank's new framework to resume lending to the palm oil sector.
Alien plants invade Nigerian protected 'gene bank'
(03/28/2011) Very few studies have been conducted on invasive species in Nigeria, however a new study in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science has discovered 25 invasive plants in a field gene bank at the National Center for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (NASGRAB) in Ibadan. The gene bank is used to establish populations of important and, in some cases threatened, native plant species. The gene bank spans 12 hectares, but the study found that 18% of the area was overtaken with invasive species that likely compete with the protected Nigerian plants for nutrients, space, and light. Among the 25 invasive species, 14 were herbs, 8 were vines, 2 were shrubs, and one was a tree.
Great Green Wall gets go ahead
(02/28/2011) Spanning the entire continent of Africa, including 11 nations, the Great Green Wall (GGW) is an ambitious plan to halt desertification at the Sahara's southern fringe by employing the low-tech solution of tree planting. While the Great Green Wall was first proposed in the 1980s, the grand eco-scheme is closer to becoming a reality after being approved at an international summit last week in Germany as reported by the Guardian.
Nigeria moving forward on REDD to protect last remaining forests
(02/19/2011) The tiny state of Cross River, Nigeria, has managed to preserve large swathes of endangered rainforest despite lucrative – and often intimidating – offers from loggers and other interests. It's also laid the groundwork for a state-wide program designed to earn international carbon credits by saving trees, thus securing its spot in an elite network of states that are moving forward as UN talks stall.
Loss of old growth forest continues
(10/06/2010) A new global assessment of forest stocks by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) shows continuing loss of primary forests since 2005 despite gains in the extent of protected areas. FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 reveals some 13 million hectares of forest were cleared between 2000 and 2010, down from around 16 million hectares per year during the 1990s. Loss of primary forest—mostly a consequence of logging—averaged 4.2 million hectares per year, down from 4.7 million hectares per year in the 1990s.
Farming snails to save the world's rarest gorillas
(04/28/2010) In a place of poverty and hunger, how do you save a species on the edge of extinction? A difficult question that conservationists have long-been working to tackle, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has come up with a new plan to protect the world's most endangered gorilla, the Cross River gorilla, from poachers by providing locals with an alternate and better income from farming snails.
Global deforestation slows
(03/25/2010) Global forest loss has diminished since the 1990s but still remains "alarmingly high", according to a preliminary version of a new assessment from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The report, Global Forest Resources Assessment 2010 (FRA 2010), shows that global forest loss slowed to around 13 million hectares per year during the 2000s, down from about 16 million hectares per year in the 1990s. It finds that net deforestation declined from about 8.3 million hectares per year in the 1990s to about 5.2 million hectares per year in the 2000s, a result of large-scale reforestation and afforestation projects, as well as natural forest recovery in some countries and slowing deforestation in the Amazon.
A New Idea to Save Tropical Forests Takes Flight
(06/29/2009) Every year, tens of millions of acres of tropical forests are destroyed. This is the most destabilizing human land-use phenomenon on Earth. Tropical forests store more aboveground carbon than any other biome. They harbor more species than all other ecosystems combined. Tropical forests modulate global water, air, and nutrient cycles. They influence planetary energy flows and global weather patterns. Tropical forests provide livelihoods for many of the world’s poorest and marginalized people. Drugs for cancer, malaria, glaucoma, and leukemia are derived from rainforest compounds. Despite all these immense values, tropical forests are vanishing faster than any other natural system. No other threat to human welfare has been so clearly documented and simultaneously left unchecked. Since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit (when more than 100 heads of State gathered to pledge a green future) 500 million acres of tropical forests have been cut or burned. For decades, tropical deforestation has been the No. 1 cause of species extinctions and the No. 2 cause of human greenhouse gas emissions, after the burning of fossil fuels. For decades, a few conservation heroes tried their best to plug holes in the dikes, but by and large the most diverse forests on Earth were in serious decline.
Cameroon and Nigeria to protect world's rarest gorilla
(09/05/2008) Cameroon and Nigeria have agreed to protect the the Cross River gorilla, world's most endangered gorilla, reports the Wildlife Conservation Society, which helped broker the deal.
Rare gorillas use weapons to attack forest-intruding humans
(12/05/2007) Following the first documented cases of the Cross River gorillas -- world's most endangered gorilla -- throwing sticks and clumps of grass when threatened by people, the Wildlife conservation Society (WCS) has announced new research to better protect the species from poaching and encroachment.
Time running out for world's rarest gorilla
(06/21/2007) Time is running out for the world's rarest subspecies of gorilla, the Cross River gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli) from the mountainous border region between Cameroon and Nigeria. With less than 300 individuals remaining, conservationists have drawn up a new plan to save the great ape from extinction.
$100 laptop for poor children ships
(11/20/2006) The first ten $100 laptops have shipped from their Taiwanese manufacturer according to a report from News Corporation. The One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC) -- the nonprofit group behind the device -- reportedly tested the laptops, which were hand-built, at the U.S. State Department last week. The laptops have been billed as a durable low-cost PC for children in developing countries. OLPC says it will begin production once it has orders for 5-10 million machines. Already the governments of Brazil, Argentina, Libya, Nigeria, Thailand, and Israel have expressed interest in the machines which have received support from Google, AMD, Brightstar, News Corporation, and Red Hat, but not Microsoft.
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Last updated: 4 Feb 2006