Road expansion and persistence in forests of the Congo Basin

Fritz Kleinschroth, Nadine Laporte, William F. Laurance, Scott J. Goetz, Jaboury Ghazoul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Roads facilitate development in remote forest regions, often with detrimental consequences for ecosystems. In the Congo Basin, unpaved logging roads used by timber firms, as well as paved and unpaved public roads, have expanded greatly. Comparing old (before 2003) and new (2003–2018) road datasets derived from Landsat imagery, we show that the total length of road networks inside logging concessions in Central Africa has doubled since 2003, whereas the total length of roads outside concessions has increased by 40%. We estimate that 44% of roads in logging concessions were abandoned by 2018, as compared to just 12% of roads outside concessions. Annual deforestation rates between 2000 and 2017 near (within 1 km) roads increased markedly and were highest for old roads, lowest for abandoned roads and generally higher outside logging concessions. The impact of logging on deforestation is partially ameliorated by the nearly fourfold higher rate of road abandonment inside concessions, but the overall expansion of logging roads in the Congo Basin is of broad concern for forest ecosystems, carbon storage and wildlife vulnerable to hunting. Road decommissioning after logging could play a crucial role in reducing the negative impacts of timber extraction on forest ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)628-634
Number of pages7
JournalNature Sustainability
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Food Science
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Urban Studies
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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