The removal of merchantable tree species for commercial purposes contributes greatly to the econimic growth of the country but its impacts on biodiversity is profound. Some of its effects include habitat degradation and fragmentation, creation of canopy gaps and erosion of topsoil among other things.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, Ghana had a forest cover of 8.2 million hectares which has dwindled to less than 1.6 million hectares. This represents an annual deforestation rate of about 2.7% (Source: FAO).
Timber extraction in both on- and off-reserves is listed among the key drivers of deforestation and biodiversity loss. It has contributed to the simplified structure of most forest habitats and the removal of ecological niches which ultimately results in the diminution of species diversity. Although not all forest-dependent species are threatened by the loss of primary forest, the demise of some large mammal and primate species in Ghana are directly linked to forest degradation caused by extensive logging and timber extraction. Logging activities in forest increases the vulnerability of fauna species by destroying their habitat structure. However, some species do thrive well in degraded forest habitats and farm fallows.
The most serious forest and savannah degradation was previously thought to occur outside of the permanent forest estate. However recent reports indicate a high degree of illegal logging and timber extraction in the permanent forest estates and consequently these relatively pristine and complex ecosystems are being replaced by simpler, less diverse ones.