IUCN Maps Health of Ghana’s Forest Reserves

17 July 2014 | Article

You cannot manage what you have not measured. A new effort to map the health of Ghana’s important forest reserves is now underway.

You cannot govern what you have not measured. Or so the saying goes. The West-African nation of Ghana was once heavily forested - and currently boasts an impressive spread of forest and game reserves more than one million hectares strong. Protecting natural landscapes is vitally important for maintaining healthy, productive ecosystems. But are Ghana’s reserves well managed? Are the forests they contain healthy? Until now these questions have been difficult to answer.

In the 1990s the Ghanaian government undertook a strong effort to map and describe the health of forests reserves, culminating in the 1995 IUCN publication Forest Protection in Ghana. Since then, no comprehensive efforts has repeated this process. Now, nearly 20 years later, IUCN, in partnership with the Government of Ghana and with support from the governments of the UK and Norway, has begun mapping forest health in Ghana’s reserves.

“We conducted a nation-wide reserve assessment,” says Wale Adeleke, IUCN project coordinator in Ghana, “looking at many different forest zones and types,” including savannah lands, which constitute 66 percent of Ghana’s land area. “We can now begin to say which forest reserves are healthy and which are in a degraded state and may require restoration,” says Adeleke.

The map below presents an initial assessment of forest condition in Ghana’s reserves using forest canopy cover as a measure of forest health (where open lands with fewer large tree crowns are considered more disturbed). Additional map layers to be provided by the Government of Ghana as follow-on to this analysis will consider markers of species biodiversity within the reserves, as well as measures of existing human activities and uses.

This work compliments assessment of restoration opportunity outside of forest reserves in Ghana, an effort begun by IUCN in 2011, as well as a 2010 IUCN assessment of management effectiveness within Ghana’s natural reserves. Maps like these will serve many of Ghana’s management goals alongside related international goals, such as those to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and land degradation, and to begin restoration the world’s degraded lands.

To learn more about IUCN’s on-going effort to map restoration opportunity across the world, visit www.iucn.org/ROAM or write to flr@iucn.org.

This project was supported by the British people and the government of Norway. It involved the contribution of the Forest Services Division and the Resources Management Support Centre (RMSC) of the Forestry Commission of Ghana and the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (CERSGIS) of the University of Ghana.