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Deforestation slows in Africa's Congo Basin, world's second-biggest rainforest

Tree loss has slowed in Africa's Congo Basin, which houses one of the world's biggest rainforests.

Satellite images show that deforestation has fallen by about a third since 2000, the BBC reported.

The findings are described in a study published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B as part of a series examining the state of Africa's forests.

In 2007, more than 21 million hectares of west African rainforest — an area nearly seven times the size of Belgium — were allocated to the logging industry, according to Greenpeace.

Yet the new report indicates that the forest is suffering less than feared. According to this latest study, the slowdown in deforestation is likely because of a shift in focus toward mining and oil and away from commercial agriculture, which often involves clearing large areas of trees.

Dr Simon Lewis, of the University of Leeds and University College London, told the BBC:

"Most of the focus has been on the Amazon and on South East Asian tropical rainforests, and a big bit of the missing picture is what is going on the Congo Basin in Central Africa. We really wanted to pull together information about this amazing region that we know very little about."

Greenpeace's report, Cut it Out: Illegal Logging in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), also looked at the wider implications of deforestation.

For example, it found that estimate that by 2050 forest clearance in the DRC would release a total of up to 34.4 billion tons of CO2, roughly equivalent to all the UK's CO2 emissions over the last 60 years.

The Congo Basin rainforest covers 800,000 square miles. Only the Amazon rainforest is bigger.