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Patterns of forest loss in one of Africa’s last remaining wilderness areas: Niassa National Reserve

Niassa National Reserve (NNR) supports Mozambique’s largest populations of endangered fauna and sustains the livelihoods of> 40,000 people who utilise its natural resources. Accurately monitoring finescale spatial and temporal trends in land-use and tree-cover is increasingly used for monitoring the ecological state of conservation areas. Here we provide essential information on land-use changes in NNR to support ongoing conservation efforts in the region. We examined patterns of forest and woodland loss in NNR between 2001 and 2014 using high resolution maps of global tree-cover change, and compared this with changes in the wider region. We found that NNR lost 108 km2 of forest (0.9 per cent of its 11,970 km2 aggregated forest extent), with the majority (89 km2) of forest loss occurring due to expanding agriculture around settlements and along main roads. Although this loss was substantial, it was lower than changes in the surrounding region, with the adjacent districts and Provinces losing 200 km2 (3.2 per cent) and 6,594 km2 (5.7 per cent) of their respective forest extents. We found NNR’s diverse Miombo ecosystems are still intact and could support large mega-faunal assemblages, investment in ensuring the long-term success of NNR is an obvious global conservation priority.

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Green Fire Science

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