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Forest assets in countries that fall across the Albertine Rift are under threat. Populations are rising at rates of 0.8-3% per annum and demand for timber for fuel and construction is rising accordingly.
This demand for forest products is at odds with a growing movement to conserve and protect forest of critical importance to biodiversity. The forests that lie in the Albertine contain endemic species such as the iconic mountain gorilla (Gorilla beringei beringei) as well as a huge diversity of birdlife and butterflies. Protecting biodiversity is big business - Uganda's famous Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Parks which host the mountain gorillas received over 28,000 visitors in 2013 (likely to have risen considerably since) with many likely to have been paying $650 each to visit the gorillas.
These competing desires between local demand for forest resources and national interest in preservation for tourism purposes are rarely met satisfactorily. Limited revenues from the national parks are returned to communities living on the perimeter of the parks. Many of the services provided to tourists are owned and operated by external (commonly foreign) tour companies so there is limited revenue being returned to locals.
However this need can be met to a limited extent by carefully managed forest reserves. Uganda has 710 forest reserves of which half are designated as plantations. These are managed to ensure a sustainable supply of timber, with an emphasis placed on the replanting of trees once an area has been felled. If such a system is truly effective at replanting then it would help reduce the need to find new sources of timber, thereby reducing the pressures on national parks. More research is needed to monitor these plantations to see if they are sustainably producing timber, and whether more plantations are required to continue to supply a growing population.
Biodiversity within the national parks has benefitted where there has been an enforced policy of fortress conservation. The policy in Mgahinga has been particularly effective, where the parks perimeter was extended beyond the forested area into farmland when the park was gazetted in 1991. This means that any illegal incursion into the park has not resulted in logging of primary forest, but instead has only impacted the 'buffer region.' This area of regenerating farmland has also given opportunity for the forest habitat to expand.
This report is written off of the back of a dissertation written in 2017/18 on the title of 'The effectiveness of different forest conservation strategies across the Albertine Rift.'
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GIS and Remote Sensing are different tools, yet when used together can give a clear picture of what processes are happening on the earth’s surface.
A geographic information system (GIS) is the analysis of spatial data through a computer-based platform. It enables statistical analysis of geocoded, or georeferenced data and renders it in a way that can be visualised by the user to spot trends and patterns. Furthermore, a GIS allows a user to model and predict how a change in variable can alter the current status quo, for example a town planner may simulate increased car flow through a road network. GIS therefore helps policymakers to understand complex issues better and propose better solutions.
Remote sensing is a method that is used to create measurements of the earth system using a variety of platforms – including, but not limited to, airplanes and satellites. The data therefore does not require the user to be collecting the data in situ. These platforms collect data in images (for example storing reflectance values within a pixel). Remote sensing platforms are broadly split in two types – firstly passive sensors require external illumination of a target (eg solar radiation) or emittance from the target (eg thermal infrared from volcano) and then measure the reflectance from that target. Active sensors produce the illumination of the target that they are measuring.
Many remote sensing software packages also have specialised raster processing functionality, for example image pre-processing and pan-sharpening (increasing the spatial resolution of an image using a panchromatic image). However, in terms of raster analysis there is still benefit in moving pre-processed rasters across to a dedicated GIS platform.