Call edition 2012

A new edition of the Prize of the Belgian Development Cooperation has been launched. This call is open until March 31st, 2011. You can read in the regulations whether you comply with the criteria for participation.

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Mountain Forest Loss in Rwanda: Effects on Bird Diversity

Fidèle RUZIGANDEKWE student laureate


°1969 Rwanda
Licence in zoology, Université du Rwanda, 1993

Mountain Forest Loss in Rwanda: Effects on Bird Diversity

The area of tropical mountain forest has decreased dramatically in Rwanda the last decennia. Forest destruction was boosted by the lasting civil war and the resulting demographic and socio-economical problems. From 1934 to 1998, 50% of the forest area (1018 km²) was degazetted to allow for economic activities. In his study, Fidele Ruzigandekwe makes a very detailed analysis of the forest losses in his country by comparing historical maps with recent aerial photo's' and satellite images. The process of deforestation is discussed in a broad demographic, socio-economical and political context. It is postulated that the loss of tropical mountain forests, with its important buffering function for microclimate and hydrology, has a strongly negative impact on agriculture, which is the most important economical activity in the country. The impact on biodiversity in the region is also treated exhaustively. The remaining forest fragments are very important for global biodiversity conservation because they host a large number of endemic plant and animal species (of which the world distribution is restricted to Rwanda). Based on a study of the effects of forest loss and fragmentation on the distribution of tropical forest birds - which are amongst the best known organisms and hence an ideal vehicle for biodiversity assessment - the author makes definite recommendations for the efficient conservation of the remaining forests. The study is therefore a very valuable and objective instrument that can guide policy makers and people of development organizations confronted with the difficult task of meeting both socio-economic and ecological priorities.

report by Prof. Dr. Luc Lens, Laboratory for animal ecology, Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium