The Niger Delta’s lowland rainforest is among the complex ecological zones in the oil region with regard to the diversity of species.
According to some researchers, the rainforest zone is characterised by tall trees (1st layer/ stratum which is characterized by thick/dense forest with smooth bark trees of about 40 to 50metre tall and often times, epiphytes and lianas are attached to the back of the tree), big trees with canopy (2nd layer/ stratum which are plants with high branch, 20–35metre tall and can provide shade), lower trees with bare trunks (3rd layer/ stratum which are plant that about 20metre tall) and 4th layer which areas with mosses, small stemmed shrubs, lichens, herbs and ferns) (4th layer/stratum).
The vegetation found in the rainforest is mainly used for timber, firewood, saw wood, particleboard, pulp/paper, poles and traditional medicine and some of the commonly found species include Khaya ivorensis, Guarea thompsonii, Entandophragma cylindricum, Entandrophragma angolense, Guarea cedrata, Lovoa trichilioides, Gossweilerodendron balsamiferum, Milicia excelsa, Terminalia ivorensis, Triplochiton scleroxylon and Terminalia superba.30
Nigeria’s oil and gas region, according to those who know better, has several ecosystems that play an essential role in the sustenance of the different habitats and life forms in the area.
Some of the notable ecosystems includes freshwater swamp forest, lowland rainforest, mangroves forest etc. In recent time, the rate of deforestation, excessive hunting of wildlife, bush burning, and intensive agricultural practices has increased in the region.
Before now, a study had reviewed the potentials and threats of the Niger Delta ecosystem. The study found that the rate of deforestation and other human activities in the area is having an impact on the various ecosystems in the environmentally despoiled oil region.
These impacts are affecting the biodiversity of the area including mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds, etc with regard to species diversity and population status.
Furthermore, other roles played by the various ecosystem including source of medicinal plants, spawning ground for fisheries, breeding and nestling ground for migratory birds, shoreline protection, habitats for wildlife, among others are under intense threat.
Therefore, there is the need for improved enforcement, surveillance of the various international and national legislations concerning biodiversity conservation and protection.
Interestingly, the rate at which forests are disappearing, according to FAO, slowed by nearly 30 per cent from the first decade of the century to the period from 2010-2018.
Yet, the earth’s tropical rainforests are still under the greatest threat, whether from livestock grazing in South America or expansion of croplands such as oil palm plantations in Asia.
Annual deforestation decreased by around 29 per cent -from 11 million hectares per year in the decade 2000-2010 to 7.8 million hectares per year in the period 2010-2018 – according to the Global Forest Resources Assessment Remote Sensing Survey.
Net forest area losses have more than halved during the survey period, decreasing from 6.8 million hectares per year in 2000-2010 to 3.1 million hectares per year in 2010-2018.
Looking at it by region, the highest deforestation in 2000-2018 occurred in South America (68 million hectares deforested), followed by Africa (49 million hectares).
That’s despite the fact that the rate of deforestation in fact slowed down in South America as it did in South and Southeast Asia between 2000-2010 and 2010-2018.
The loss of tropical forests accounted for more than 90 percent of the global deforestation from 2000 to 2018, at 157 million hectares – that’s roughly the size of Western Europe.
Yet annual deforestation in the Tropical domain actually slowed significantly from 10.1 million hectares per year in 2000-2010 to 7 million hectares per year in the period from 2010–2018.
FAO’s Deputy Director-General, Maria Helena Semedo, says “this survey is important, not just for the new numbers it gives us but for what it tells us about forest area trends and what’s driving deforestation, also the crucial ability it gives us to monitor how things are evolving.
“Unsustainable agricultural development and other land uses continue to put intense pressure on our forests, especially in many of the poorest countries. But there are win-win solutions which we can and must scale up to feed the world without destroying our forests.”