Urban Pressure and Woodland Degradation: Perceptions of Tree Cover Change in the Kano Close-Settled Zone
Inextricably linked to the concept of land degradation, and the central focus of this chapter, is the notion of vegetation change. As was reviewed in Chapter 4, the protection of many useful plant species and the incorporation of economic trees into food production systems has for centuries been an important part of livelihood strategies in the Kano CSZ (Mortimore and Adams, 1999). However, current discussions with a wide range of actors across the research transect reveal that there is presently considerable concern for a perceived decrease in many tree species. If local perceptions of environmental change are, in fact, representative of what is actually being played out on the landscape, such a reduction in vegetation cover could have a signifi cant impact on livelihoods in the CSZ, since a broad range of plants, grasses and tree products are reported as being vital resources to the household economy. Moreover, the vast majority of households interviewed in this study also demonstrated an awareness that changes in vegetation cover had critical implications for the sustainability of other environmental resources, such as soil and water. Since there appears to be much interlinkage between the various types and manifestations of land degradation, local assessments of vegetative change may provide a useful indicator for assessments of other biotic resources as well. As Stocking and Murnaghan (2001: 7) point out, ‘a reduction in vegetation cover through deforestation will almost always be accompanied by soil erosion, sedimentation of lower slopes and increased surface runoff’.