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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2010

7 - Long-term perspectives on forest conservation: lessons from research in Kibale National Park


The manner in which humans use tropical rainforests has far-reaching consequences for the diversity of the world's terrestrial species, because tropical rainforests support more species than any other terrestrial ecosystem. Unfortunately, tropical forests all over the world are threatened by human activities, including forest fragmentation and isolation, collection of non-timber forest products, poaching, fires, forest degradation, and deforestation (mainly through selective logging for timber). Such activities have the potential to disrupt the integrity and functioning of forest habitats, which in turn may lead to loss of species and some of the resources that tropical forests provide. This chapter reviews the impact of human activities in Kibale National Park, Uganda.

Most of the conservation research that we report on here was short term (1 to 2 years). It was also based on a narrow range of ecological variables, such as the response of animal species to logging. As a result, the research findings are sometimes contradictory and difficult to interpret (Chapman et al., 2005).

Kibale National Park has been the center of both short- and long-term research on various aspects of forest ecology (Struhsaker, 1997). Human activities that have led to modifications of the Kibale ecosystems have been going on for a long time but the best documented are those related to selective logging from 1954 to about 1978 and the loss of large herbivores (mainly elephant, Loxodonta africana and buffalo, Syncerus caffer). Since the 1980s, other human-induced changes have taken place.

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