Mapping Charcoal Driven Forest Degradation during the Main Period of Al-Shabaab Control in Southern Somalia
Following more than 20 years of civil unrest, environmental information for Southern Somalia is scarce while there is clear evidence that the war economy fueled by the conflict is rapidly depleting the country's natural resources and especially the woody biomass. Wood charcoal production is one of the most relevant businesses supporting war regimes such as the extreme Islamist group Al-Shabaab, which has ruled in Southern Somalia from 2006 to 2012 and is still occupying large areas. In this study, we map and quantify the tree loss suffered by the region due to the rapid increase in illegal charcoal production and export over recent years. Very high-resolution (VHR) satellite imagery is used to visually count charcoal production sites as a proxy of tree loss in two sample areas within the lower Juba region of Southern Somalia. The image interpretation allows mapping the charcoal production sites as well as estimating tree loss rates above 7% over 5 years. The results are crucial for understanding the exact dimension and effects of the loss of woody biomass and for planning conservation and recovery interventions in the concerned area.
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