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Africa has become greener in the last 20 years

May 29, 2017

By Paul Homewood

From Science Nordic:



In Africa, a fight is happening. On one side natural forces are making the continent greener, and on the other, people are removing trees and bushes from the continent.

In densely populated regions, people are cutting down trees and forests, but elsewhere, where human populations are more thinly spread, bushes and scrub vegetation are thriving.

Now, scientists have quantified for the first time how vegetation across the continent has changed in the past 20 years.

Thirty six per cent of the continent has become greener, while 11 per cent is becoming less green.

The results show that not all is lost for Africa’s nature, say the scientists behind the new research.

“Our results are both positive and negative. Of course it’s not good that humans have had a negative influence on the distribution of trees and bushes in 11 per cent of Africa in the last 20 years, but it doesn’t come as a complete surprise,” says co-author Martin Brandt from the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

“On the other hand it’s not all negative as an area—three times larger than the area where trees and bushes are disappearing—is becoming greener, which is positive, at least from a climate point of view,” he says.

The new study is published in the scientific journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.


Challenges the general view of Africa

The study challenges the view that Africa is undergoing a sustained loss of trees and bushes, says Professor Henrik Balslev from the Department of Bioscience at Aarhus University, Denmark. Balslev was not involved in the study.

The new study offers a nuanced picture of how population growth in Africa influences vegetation in different ways.

“The study gives a much more nuanced picture of people’s influence on vegetation in Africa, south of the Sahara, than we had before. The study will have significant impacts on how we evaluate people’s influence on African nature in the future, as the expected population grows dramatically,” he says.


Namibia and South Africa are getting greener

In the new study, scientists have used satellite data to study how climate change and people have affected the distribution of trees and bushes in Africa over the past 20 years.

Deforestation makes way for farming, cities and infrastructure, and the felled trees provide fuel as firewood. At the same time, more CO2 in the atmosphere together with a wetter, warmer planet, provides conditions that help trees and bushes to grow.

So the scientists expected to see that densely populated areas would be less green, while sparsely populated areas should be getting greener, which is exactly what they observed.

The humid, heavily populated areas of West Africa have lost trees overall in the past 20 years, while more bushes have appeared in the drier, sparsely populated areas of Namibia and South Africa.

Meanwhile, trees have been disappearing from large cities across the continent.

“We find a clear connection between the size of the population in a given area and how much vegetation has been lost,” says Brandt.

“At the same time, the study challenges the general view of Africa that there’s been a general loss of trees and bushes. The picture is much more nuanced and regionally variable, and the problem with the loss of trees and bushes in the humid areas is at least partially offset by a growth in vegetation elsewhere,” he says.


The headline should of course have read – “because of climate change” – instead of “despite”.

As the report states, more CO2 in the atmosphere together with a wetter, warmer planet, provides conditions that help trees and bushes to grow.

  1. diogenese2 permalink
    May 29, 2017 12:01 pm

    “The headline should of course have read – “because of climate change” – instead of “despite”.”

    Both would have been wrong. Under the Koppen System the “greening of Africa” IS climate change.

    What has changed? Is it hotter or wetter? If the change is “caused” by increased CO2 then “climate change” has not caused itself ! This confusion is the consequence of obfuscating the embarrassing concept of “Global Warming” by subsuming it within the phrase “climate change” to hide the lack of warming.

    Whenever the phrase “caused by climate change” is used it signals a logical fallacy of Circular Cause and Consequence. What they actually mean is “caused by fossil fuel emissions” which is NOT a climate change.

    • Simon Allnutt permalink
      May 29, 2017 12:44 pm

      Very good, I am glad you got out of the barrel to write it.

  2. dangeroosdave permalink
    May 29, 2017 12:23 pm

    Maybe people could live in tree houses.

  3. May 29, 2017 12:36 pm

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak and commented:
    In Africa, a fight is happening. On one side natural forces are making the continent greener, and on the other, people are removing trees and bushes from the continent.

    • HotScot permalink
      May 29, 2017 12:46 pm

      They are removing trees and bushes to burn as fuel to cook and heat with. Not just villages, but entire cities are supplied by ‘illegal’ loggers, but how can they be illegal when there is a local demand, not satisfied by cheap, fossil fuel generated energy?

  4. Athelstan permalink
    May 29, 2017 1:34 pm

    Anti democratic hotpotch of failed states and that’s just the EU, pop across the Med and corruption, public and private peculation added in to the giant conglomerates wiping out and up the little man, a clique of fabulously rich endlessly bent African elite – is only where the problems begin for the least developed but in terms of potential = the greatest continent.

    Africa, is too green!

    Africa, where God given resources abound, unless for corrupt mad as a bat filled belfry [ref Zimbabwe]…………..there is no reason for starvation in Africa – none! Africa, where everybody who lives within its geographical area should be able to afford a comfortable living, Europeans should be flocking there not the other ways around.
    Despite, its untold geological resources, the only thing they do really well over there is make babies and the western government aid agencies, alongside the NGOs, various interferring busybodies and charidees by the score, western interventionist medical technology increases the birthrate and then they turn round to them and say………..

    “Because of globul warbling – you’re all gonna have to stay poor, in the meantime your leaders and home government agencies, the western corporate giants will rob you all blind.”

    Climate change, who the fukc needs it?

    Certainly not the Africans……….oh and btw you guys, whisper it………….”it’s all a bunch of cow wallop anyway!”

    Finally, in 1950 Africa’s population combined was half of Europes at circa 250 million by the end of this century, Africa combined estimated population 4.5 billion. The UN, the West, anyone, someone is going to have to let them – Africa….. use ‘local resources’ – not least coal, gas, oil – or else.

    • Dung permalink
      May 29, 2017 2:04 pm

      China is doing that bit mate, mining the coal and building the power stations.

      • Athelstan permalink
        May 29, 2017 3:48 pm

        mining coal and burning it in the PRC and.whatever else.

        So much is in the ground, Africa is Craton rich, not least [just about whatever they want] are; rare earths, Platinum, Gold and in the South blood diamonds in Zimbabwe and the irony by comparison, the locals would by far prefer the British version of colonialism rather than the new Imperialists and never do the left here in the UK mention this new far more rapacious exploitation…………do they, because it would turn their Critical theory on its head [ie, only whites can be [‘THE oppressors’].

      • Dung permalink
        May 29, 2017 10:49 pm


        The Chinese are building coal fired power stations in Africa and mining the coal to feed them. I think the Africans will appreciate the Chinese more than they appreciate the West.

  5. May 29, 2017 2:54 pm

    Paraphrasing, “…wetter, warmer, greener…caused by (evil) Man-Made CO2….

    Whether or not the Man-Made CO2 (incidentally, Man does not make CO2; it’s just a tiny fractional by-product of our modern energy system – the same one sustaining all modern life on the planet…) actually did this, I have to ask: “So what? Where’s the issue or problem, what’s more a crisis because the world’s a little warmer, wetter, and greener?” And I doubt CO2 had much to do with any of that outside of the greening.

  6. tom0mason permalink
    May 29, 2017 4:36 pm

    As the overwhelming majority of the tiny rise in the atmospherically rare gas, CO2, is due to nature then if this rise causes the greening of the drier areas of Africa then it is an all natural effect.
    Nature is the controller, humans are a bit part player. To believe otherwise is crass hubris of the stupidest kind.

  7. AlexB permalink
    May 29, 2017 5:49 pm

    Of course it’s “despite climate change”. No way they could get away with that piece without putting something like that near the top.

    At least they said CO2 is beneficial. A few more articles like that published and well be starting to get somewhere.

  8. gallopingcamel permalink
    May 30, 2017 4:01 am

    Clearly more CO2 is a good thing. Probably most of you know why but for the few who don’t there is this:

    Click to access benefits-of-co2.pdf

    It is my patriotic duty to buy a larger SUV to increase my “Carbon Footprint” Even so I am a chronic underachiever when compared to climate crusaders such as Al Gore and Prince Charles with their multiple residences, executive jets and royal yachts.

  9. andy T permalink
    May 30, 2017 7:42 am

    Isn’t this just what Freeman Dyson was on about?

    • Old Englander permalink
      May 30, 2017 8:59 am


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