Africa's rate of urbanization is the highest in the world. This is relevant to ecologists working in Africa because urban growth is strongly associated with habitat destruction, and also creates new fields of study. The ecological footprint concept is used to illustrate how urban settlements in Africa impact on rural ecosystems. At an aggregate level, African countries have the lowest ecological footprints in the world. However, there is little available data for individual cities, so evidence is fragmented making concerted policy initiatives difficult. Wood fuel continues to be a major source of energy for urban households and there is a long running debate as to what extent providing wood fuel for urban use damages forest ecosystems. Growing evidence contests the assertion that urban wood fuel markets are responsible for forest degradation. Although there are other options available, the social consequences of switching energy sources need to be taken into account. Outright bans, for example on charcoal, would lead to a loss of livelihoods in rural and urban households, and may not solve deforestation as well as increasing fossil fuel use would increase the ecological footprint.
- population growth
- ecological footprints