Wildlife, forest and environmental risk of timber export in Sierra Leone

Dr. Mohamed A. Bereteh: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 20 May 2019:

My concern is that timber export from Sierra Leone can be very damaging, if there are no rehabilitation programs under way.

The revenue from timber is of less Importance and benefits to the people of Sierra Leone, in dealing with the loss of species diversity and agriculture in terms of the intangible ecological benefits for the present and future generations.

It’s time for the government to stay focused on the recovery programs of the forest resources since the former vice president – Sam Sumana recklessly harvested the forests for cash, without any afforestation and reforestation subsidiaries paid for ongoing projects for rehabilitation or being undertaken.

Please revisit Timber Gate accusations of forest destructions of which he never vindicated or exonerated himself for his illegal activities. This is just my sequel to recap the series of articles of concern about the vulnerability of Wildlife and Forest Conservation in Sierra Leone.

Forestry is a renewal resource but like any other biological resource, misuse without habitat conservation measures can be detrimental and disastrous. Malawi, for example, has lost millions of hectares of agricultural land recently that have been submerged by flooding.

Evidence based research has supported my greatest fear of losing fertile agricultural lands in Sierra Leone for years of underdevelopment, due to lack of effort to sustainably rehabilitate quarries, excavations, and mining areas.

Also, we must be aware that species endemic to this “new nation” heading for economic recovery under the New Direction, has to reassess timber export and forest exploitation with scientific and statistical data to support round log export.

President Bio has made this clear that it is time to industrialize our country with our business partners’ abroad. Semi-processed timber is one option we can consider for export. But in my scientific opinion we can’t export timber as round logs, otherwise we may self-destruct.

Biological species, once they fall below their carrying capacity and viable population level will never recover. I once did research in graduate school at the University of Liberia about clear felling versus selective cutting of timber.

Without being destructive, forestry can benefit more on clear felling and replanting than selective exploitation of mature timber. The biggest challenge in forestry is to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of reforestation or afforestation.

Is Sierra Leone ready to invest in money paid by companies to exploit our forests outside statutory protected areas like the Gola forest, Kasewe, No. 2 River, Kambui Hills, the Peninsula Forest Reserves, and the Northern Province Roadside Plantations, among others.

My question for the government agent responsible for exploitation of our forest resources, Mr. Babadi Kamara, is whether the $2.5 million dollars has been invested out of the paid reforestation fees, or is it just for justification on paper; and which areas are the timber companies exploiting for export?

We must avoid another Timber Gate scandal if it can’t be supported by any scientific evidence, not just acquiring business licenses to destroy the nation’s ecosystem.

For understanding the risks I have presented, please visit https:/www.sciencing.com.

You can understand fully the advantages and disadvantages of accepting money for afforestation fees as a government. I quote, Ari Reid in his Updated Comments of April 25, 2018. Sierra Leone can learn from both local and international expertise.

“Afforestation is the establishment of forests on lands that have been without forests for some amount of time, such as previously forested lands that were converted to range, and the establishment of forests on lands that have not been forested in the past. The term “afforestation” is most often used in conjunction with discussions of carbon sequestration, which is the process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere. While afforestation can restore previously forested areas and help to remove carbon dioxide, it can have detrimental effects on species diversity and agriculture profits. Afforestation can restore forests, and also helps protect again soil erosion and flooding. Done incorrectly, though, afforestation can modify a biome, which can reduce biodiversity.”

Forest Restoration

“Logging, urban sprawl and agriculture all demand the cutting down of trees to make way for development or economic growth. Deforestation can lead to habitat loss, changes in drainage regimes and local climate, and loss of biological diversity. Restoring these areas may be as simple as allowing forests to naturally re-establish themselves over time, or may require a more involved approach including the planting of native trees by hand. Restoration in previously forested areas can halt and even reverse biodiversity losses, provide carbon sinks to help clean the atmosphere, and return the local area to its natural climate and moisture regimes.”

“Afforestation in Previously Unforested Areas. Forests help make semi-arid lands more sustainable by protecting bare ground from soil erosion, and help to lock in soil moisture. The conversion of some areas into managed forests, such as the Acacia mangiump plantation in Brazil, helps to create jobs and sustainable infrastructure while at the same time reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the area. Foresting savannas and other grasslands, however, removes specialized habitat for many animals, reduces the local biodiversity of grasses, and may introduce and even encourage the invasion of non-native species into the landscape.”

Afforestation as Flood Control

Efforts to restore bottom land hardwood forests in places like the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley focus not only on restoring biological diversity, but on water filtration, flood control and the prevention of sediment transport. In his paper “Forest and Flood, A New Angle,” author Elmo Harris draws on his experiences in the LMAV overflow regions to advocate for restoration of forests in this area to control floodwaters. Forests help reduce the impact of flooding by delaying and reducing the size of floods, dispersing the water in a more gradual manner than over bare ground. However, replanting forests in these rich bottom land soils makes the land unavailable for agricultural use, which may have negative impacts on the local economy.”

How can we actively restore the environment?

In my view, this relates to the Importance of the forest ecosystem associated with the depletion of the biodiversity and fragile ecosystem. What are some advantages and  disadvantages of clear cutting, as my original post graduate research thesis has proven in my M.Sc. Forestry Research Program. It was focused on projects of Clear Cutting and Replanting.

There are disadvantages of afforestation provided the reforestation fees paid by companies are not invested by government in any properly managed afforestation program at the onset of export of timber to the Benelux countries or elsewhere. This can result in a reduction of local biodiversity as I earlier mentioned.

More scientific evidence states that it will alter “the modification of particular biomes, the introduction of non-native and potentially invasive species, reduced stream flow, and lost revenue from agriculture. Native grasslands that are converted to forests may not contain the same habitat for local species, and ill-managed reforestation efforts may result in the production of a monoculture that lacks not only plant diversity but reduces the number of available land for agriculture.”

About the author

Dr. Mohamed A. Bereteh, Ph.D; California, USA.

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