Fig. 1 Forest disturbance driver. (A) Reference disturbance driver for each sampled pixel. (B) National estimates of 2000-2014 forest loss area by disturbance driver. Figure from Tyukavina et al. (2018).
A regional assessment of forest disturbance dynamics from 2000 to 2014 was performed for the Congo Basin countries using time-series satellite data. Area of forest loss was estimated and disaggregated by predisturbance forest type and direct disturbance driver. An estimated 84% of forest disturbance area in the region is due to small-scale, nonmechanized forest clearing for agriculture. Annual rates of small-scale clearing for agriculture in primary forests and woodlands doubled between 2000 and 2014, mirroring increasing population growth. Smallholder clearing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone accounted for nearly two-thirds of total forest loss in the basin. Selective logging is the second most significant disturbance driver, contributing roughly 10% of regional gross forest disturbance area and more than 60% of disturbance area in Gabon. Forest loss due to agro-industrial clearing along the Gulf of Guinea coast more than doubled in the last half of the study period. Maintaining natural forest cover in the Congo Basin into the future will be challenged by an expected fivefold population growth by 2100 and allocation of industrial timber harvesting and large-scale agricultural development inside remaining old-growth forests.
Project Description

A new study on drivers of Congo Basin forest loss has been published in Science Advances. Researchers from the University of Maryland and the State University of New York concluded that small holder  clearing continues to be the dominant driver of forest loss in the basin. This study, which was supported by CARPE, assessed forest disturbance dynamics for six Congo Basin countries (Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Republic of the Congo) by using satellite data from 2000 to 2014 to examine 10,000 sample locations. The authors conclude that 84% of the forest disturbance area in the region is due to small-scale, non-mechanized forest clearing for agriculture. Sustainable forest management will be considerably challenged by increasing human population, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo where the correlation of population growth and increasing annual primary forest loss area indicate that all of the Democratic Republic of Congo‚Äôs primary forest could be cleared by 2100.

The research article can be found here:

Congo Basin forest loss dominated by increasing smallholder clearing.

Alexandra Tyukavina1,*, Matthew C. Hansen1, Peter Potapov1, Diana Parker1, Chima Okpa1, Stephen V. Stehman2, Indrani Kommareddy1 and Svetlana Turubanova1

1 Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20740, USA.

2 College of Environmental Science and Forestry, State University of New York, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA.

* Corresponding author. Email:

Science Advances  07 Nov 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 11, eaat2993
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat2993

The article has received press coverage which can be found here:

Mongabay Environmental News:


University of Maryland:


Project Details