Fire Ecology, 2013
Volume 9, Issue 2
The Disappearance of the Tropical Forests of Africa, with an Introduction by Mark A. Cochrane
Author: Andre Marie Aubreville
A well-known botanist, André Marie A. Aubréville (1897-1982) was already a decorated veteran of the trench warfare in France during World War I before he ever discovered forestry. After the war, he found his way to the tropics, serving as a forest engineer throughout the French Empire’s vast array of African colonies. His extensive travels and studies would result in his gaining great knowledge of the region’s botany and keen insights about how climate and land-use dynamics interact to create and slowly change vegetated landscapes throughout Africa.
Having risen to the government position of Inspector-General of Waters and Forests, while simultaneously serving as President of the Botanical Society of France, Aubréville retired in 1955, only to take up a new career as a professor at France’s Natural History Museum, where he directed the Laboratory Phanérogamie. In this new capacity, he travelled even more broadly, studying vegetation throughout the tropics. Aubréville was an extremely productive scientist, publishing more than 300 papers and 20 books on studies conducted throughout Africa, southeast Asia, South America, and New Caledonia. He is often remembered for his work addressing desertification: the progressive degradation of relatively dry land regions that become increasingly arid due to a combination of climate change and human land use practices, eventually losing water bodies, vegetation cover, and wildlife. He did not coin the term, but Aubréville (1949) was key in popularizing desertification as an important ecological process. Desertification is now viewed as a serious global environmental problem.