Upcoming future event: Angola – dates will be confirmed
Landscape changes in Angola are dominated by woodland and forest losses due to clearing for crops, bush fires (which convert woodland into shrubland) and the harvesting of fuel (as wood and charcoal) and timber. Rates of clearing for small-scale dryland crops are high over much of Angola as a result of poor soil fertility. Erosion is also a severe problem, which has caused widespread losses of topsoil, soils nutrients and ground water. Rates of erosion are greatest in areas with steep slopes, sparse plant cover and high numbers of people, as well as around diamond mines in Lunda-Norte. Patterns of river flow and water quality have been changed, largely as a result of soil erosion and plant cover loss, as well as large irrigation schemes and dams. High rates of urban growth and the production of untreated urban waste have led to large concentrations of contamination around towns. Further research is needed, for example to assess the environmental impacts of the fishing and petroleum industries offshore, the effects of large volumes of urban waste being washed into and down major rivers to the sea, and landscape changes in an around areas of highland forests and grasslands that support populations of rare and endemic species.
Woodland and Forest Loss
Losses of woodland are by far the most obvious and conspicuous of changes in Angola. Much of this has been due to clearing for small-scale crop farming, particularly of dry-land crops, and large-scale commercial agriculture (including relatively small areas of exotic tree plantations). Other losses have come from the harvesting of charcoal, wood fuel, timber production (both for commercial and domestic uses), and runaway bush fires. On a smaller scale, swathes of riverine forest have been removed to give miners access to alluvial diamonds in rivers in Lunda-Norte.
As a result of all these losses, large areas of forest and savanna are now grasslands or shrublands. For example, the greater part of Huambo and Angola’s central planalto was originally wooded, and 78.4% of the province of Huambo was covered in miombo woodland in 2002. In 13 years that figure had dropped in 2015 to 48.3%, amounting to the loss of some 1.265 million ha, 63.2% of which was converted from forest to crop land (Palacios et al. 2015). Similar losses in western Cuando Cubango, eastern Huíla and eastern Huambo have been documented by Schneibel et al. (2013), and elsewhere in Huíla and the Cuvelai drainage in Cunene (Mendelsohn and Mendelsohn 2018).
A countrywide perspective on the loss of forest or tree canopy cover is extensively deforested. Expanse stretching southwest to northeast across western Huíla, southwestern Huambo and western Bié. Much of this area of highlands was cleared for crops between the 1950s and 1970s, although grasslands (anharas do alto) probably always dominated high altitude areas of the central planalto above about 1900 m above sea level. Substantial areas were cleared at the same time in parts of Cuanza-Norte, Cuanza-Sul and Malange, but their boundaries are not easily defined.