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

Estefania Erazo-Mera, Nicolas Younes Cardenas, Paul Horwood, Damien Paris, Monique Paris, Nicholas Murray

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    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.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalEnvironmental Conservation
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2023


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