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Are humans responsible for Africa’s lost rainforests?

New research indicates that the rise of agriculture in Central Africa may have contributed to the demise of the lust rainforests of the area.

About 3000 years ago, Central Africa was a landscape in transition. Lush evergreen forests were gradually giving way to savannas and grasslands as regional climate change pushed the formerly humid weather patterns toward drier, slightly warmer conditions. But climate was not the only factor at play. According to a new study, an influx of humans into the region at this time may have helped drive some of the original rainforests into oblivion.

The paper’s results, published online today in Science, came as a surprise to the researchers. “To be honest, at the beginning we were not at all aware of this human issue,” says lead author Germain Bayon, a geochemist at the French Research Institute for Exploration of the Sea in Plouzané.

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Story: Rachel Nuwer, ScienceMag | Photo: Guenter Guni/iStockphoto

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