Aleman J.C., Fayolle A. (2020) Long-Term Vegetation Change in Central Africa: The Need for an Integrated Management Framework for Forests and Savannas. In: Gasparatos A. et al. (eds) Sustainability Challenges in Sub-Saharan Africa I. Science for Sustainable Societies. Springer, Singapore.

Tropical forests and savannas are the main biomes in sub-Saharan Africa, covering most of the continent. Collectively they offer important habitat for biodiversity and provide multiple ecosystem services. Considering their global importance and the multiple sustainability challenges they face in the era of the Anthropocene, this chapter undertakes a comprehensive analysis of the past, present, and future vegetation patterns in central African forests and savannas. Past changes in climate, vegetation, land use, and human activity have affected the distribution of forests and savannas across central Africa. Currently, forests form a continuous block across the wet and moist areas of central Africa, and are characterized by high tree cover (>90% tree cover). Savannas and woodlands have lower tree cover (<40% tree cover), are found in drier sites in the north and south of the region, and are maintained by frequent fires. Recent tree cover loss (2000–2015) has been more important for forests than for savannas, which, however, reportedly experienced woody encroachment. Future cropland expansion is expected to have a strong impact on savannas, while the extent of climatic impacts depends on the actual scenario. We finally identify some of the policy implications for restoring ecosystems, expanding protected areas, and designing sustainable ecosystem management approaches in the region.

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