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Last updated at 16:36 BST, Monday, 22 July 2013

Congo deforestation in surprise fall

Summary

22 July 2013

Scientists say that the cutting down of trees in one of the world's largest rainforests has dramatically decreased. A new study shows that deforestation in central Africa's Congo Basin has fallen by about a third since 2000. The study is published in the Royal Society's journal.

Reporter:

Rebecca Morelle

Congo Basin

The Congo Basin rainforest is second only to the Amazon in size. (c) Joint Research Centre

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Sprawling across the heart of Africa, the Congo Basin rainforest is second only to the Amazon in size. And this latest study reveals that it's in far better health than expected.

Using images taken from satellites, researchers tracked how the dense swathes of foliage changed over time. They found that during the 1990s, nearly 3,000 sq km of forest were being felled each year.

But in the decade to 2010 the rate of deforestation slowed. Fewer than 2,000 sq km were lost - an overall decrease of a third.

The scientists believe this is partly down to improved conservation measures. But they also note that the region's economic priorities have changed.

Elsewhere around the world, rainforests are being cleared to make way for agriculture, but in central Africa, a focus on mining and oil has left the Congo Basin more intact.

The scientists say that the Congo Basin plays a key role in storing carbon - and losing areas of it would have a large impact on climate change.

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Vocabulary

sprawling

spreading out in a disorganised way

swathes

very large areas

foliage

leaves of different sizes

priorities

most important things

cleared

removed

mining

searching for valuable materials in the ground

intact

undamaged; in its original condition

a key role

an important function

storing carbon

keeping carbon out of the atmosphere

climate change

variation over time in the world's temperatures and weather patterns

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