2015-11-25. Huge development projects could doom Africa’s environment.

posted Nov 29, 2015, 7:06 PM by Alan Gould
By Virginia Morell, Science. For GSS Ecosystem Change chapter 7. Excerpt: Africa, still covered in large swathes of pristine wilderness, is likely to lose much of its biological wealth if dozens of new massive development projects—from highways to railroads to pipelines—get the green light, according to a new study. Most of the projects are designed to increase agricultural production and ease the transport of minerals such as iron and coal. Yet if all are built, they’ll create a spider web of some 53,000 kilometers of corridors through deserts, forests, and savannas—and a host of environmental disasters, scientists say. Even worse, they contend, most won’t help the continent feed its people, even though this is the primary justification behind many of the projects. “Africa is undergoing the most dramatic era of development it’s ever experienced,” says William Laurance, an ecologist at James Cook University, Cairns, in Australia, and the study’s lead author. “No one disputes its need for food and economic development. But these corridors need to be built without creating environmental crises.” ...the researchers assessed the potential of 33 such projects to improve agricultural production, and then quantified the environmental costs. ...their analysis shows that only five of the 33 projects would meet these dual goals, the team reports online today in Current Biology. Twenty-two of the projects are marginal, meaning that they’re important either for the environment or for agriculture, but not both. And six don’t meet either goal because they would cut through areas with high environmental values without delivering high agricultural returns....  http://news.sciencemag.org/africa/2015/11/huge-development-projects-could-doom-africa-s-environment