The Impact of Conflict on Forests in South Sudan

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 9:05 AM
Virginia Gorsevski1, Eric S Kasischke2, Jan Dempewolf3, Tatiana V Loboda3 and Martha Geores3, (1)The Global Environment Facility Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel, Washington, DC, United States, (2)NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC, United States, (3)University of Maryland, College Park, MD, United States
The impacts of armed conflict on ecosystems are complex and difficult to assess due to restricted access to affected areas making satellite remote sensing a useful tool for studying direct and indirect effects of conflict on the landscape. The Imatong Central Forest Reserve (ICFR) in South Sudan together with the nearby Dongotana Hills and the Agoro-Agu Forest Reserve (AFR) in Northern Uganda share a boundary and encompass a biologically diverse montane ecosystem. This study used satellite data combined with general human population trends to examine the impact of armed conflict and its outcome on similar forest ecosystems both during and after hostilities. A Disturbance Index (DI) was used to investigate the location and extent of forest cover loss and gain in three areas for two key time periods. Results indicate that the rate of forest recovery was significantly higher than the rate of disturbance both during and after wartime in and around the ICFR. In contrast, the nearby Dongotana Hills experienced relatively high rates of disturbance during both periods; however, post war period losses were largely offset by some gains in forest cover. Discussions with local inhabitants confirmed these findings and provided further insights into the underlying causes impacting forest cover and wildlife. South Sudan is the latest nation to join the Global Environment Facility (GEF). While the GEF does not explicitly address conflict, many of the projects it supports occur in conflict and post-conflict zones with wide-ranging repercussions for both people and the environment. In an effort to assess best practices for working in conflict and post-conflict areas, the GEF Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (STAP) will undertake an analysis of GEF-funded projects over the last two decades to identify where the GEF has promoted cooperation between groups and states, and/or made a positive contribution toward conflict avoidance resulting in shared environmental benefits.