This article was originally published on Conservation International.


“The intensity of light in the tropics makes everything brighter. In Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, women wear loud printed dresses and carry multicolored packages through crowded marketplaces. Driving from Monrovia to Liberia’s countryside, city streets transform into dense green vegetation that, if left unchecked, will strangle buildings within months. Further from the city, thick stands of trees crowd the road, punctuated by occasional small villages and garden plots. In some places, the forest has been replaced by uniform rows of tall, straight trees: rubber plantations. In others, it opens up to a sea of dark green fronds: oil palm.

I was in the small West African country as part of a team tasked with mapping and valuing the country’s “natural capital” — the biodiversity and ecosystems that provide benefits (such as food, water, energy and raw materials) to people and the economy. Due to its heartbreaking history of civil conflict and the recent Ebola epidemic, very little research on Liberia’s natural ecosystems has been possible since the 1980s. In previous projects mapping important areas in Madagascar, Cambodia and Amazonia, our team often had to struggle to piece together information from multiple sources. Liberia presented a new set of challenges: To document nature use and loss in a country with little recent data, where do you begin?…”

Read on at: Conservation International.