The Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, is hugely naturally diverse, and is home to the second largest tropical rainforests in the world. With the rainforest covering over 905,000 square miles, which is almost the entirety of northern Congo, it is home to many different animals and plants that are suited to the environment. The land within this area has many different uses including mining and forestry, and until now few had the opportunity to investigate the proportions of the rainforest being used for these reasons. A new digital map of the area has been produced which will allow all different uses of the land to be plotted so that these amounts can be tracked more conveniently.
The Congo rainforest is home to many animals such as chimpanzees that take advantage of the shrubbery and plant life on offer, and hippopotamuses which spend the majority of their time in the Congo River that flows through the forest. The rainforest ecosystem has always been a curiosity, with many new species living within the trees, including some which are yet to be discovered. As well as the diverse wildlife which live there, the rainforests around the world are essential to our life on Earth due to the amount of oxygen they produce. Photosynthesis in the leaves of the many trees in these rainforests allows carbon dioxide to be consumed and oxygen to be released into the atmosphere, and without this the amount of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide would be dramatically increased.
Although rainforests are invaluable to us, both scientifically and physically, the land in these areas is being used for other reasons. There is a huge amount of natural resources within the rainforest that are required all over the world. Trees are being cut down to produce fuel and building products that are needed within the area and further afield, and although new trees are often replanted in their place, the homes of many creatures has been removed. As well as this, due to the conditions of rainforests, underneath the surface there is an abundance of coal and other materials and this has been taken advantage of by mining companies. There have also been roads built within the rainforest boundaries to transport these resources to towns and ports to be distributed. These land uses as well as others such as farming are all reducing the size of the rainforest itself and officials have decided that this should be planned more effectively.
At the end of last week, a new digital map of the Congo rainforest was produced. Using information collected from the government and large companies working in the area, the land uses of this area have been plotted. This should clearly show the proportions of land used for ventures such as mining and farming, as well as the amount of the forest left untouched. This will allow officials to plan ahead as to whether it would be suitable to use more of the land for natural resources or whether the forest should be left as it is.
This is a huge step forward, as it will allow the rainforest to be used more sustainably as well as conserving the ecosystems which are home to many species of plants and animals that are only suited to this particular climate. It will allow officials to plan the way the land is used in a more effective way so that more of the forest can be left untouched, even with increasing demands for wood and mined minerals. This venture would be extremely useful in other areas such as the Amazon, and if the scheme is successful hopefully many other countries will follow suit.
How could digital maps be used in other areas to promote sustainability?