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State of knowledge of research in the Guinean forests of West Africa region

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The Guinean forests of West Africa (GFWA) region is of highest conservation value in Africa and worldwide. The aims of this review are to systematically identify and collate studies focusing on the environment in the region. We found that, after Google Scholar search, in over 112,000 results for 17 disciplines, three countries (Nigeria, Cameroon and Togo) were subjected to much more investigations than the other countries. Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone were the least studied countries, and overall there was a significant West to East increasing trend for all seven considered disciplines (Ecology, Zoology, Botany, Conservation biology, Pollution, Climate change and Ecological economy) in terms of number of results. Within ‘Ecology’ ‘macroecology and biodiversity’ was the most studied subdiscipline. Baseline taxonomic studies in ‘Zoology’ and ‘Botany’ received little interest, particularly in 2006-2016. For ‘Conservation biology’, studies focusing on ‘protected areas’ were more numerous than for any other subsector, followed by ‘biodiversity surveys’. Our analysis revealed that there were significantly more studies focusing on forests than on mangrove areas. Our results pointed out that, there is an urgent need for more rigorous taxonomical and fine-scale distribution studies of organisms across the whole region, not only for the traditionally overlooked groups (e.g. invertebrates). It is also stressed that studies of macropatterns in conservation biology research for the region should be performed by more reliable data at the more local scale, given the misuse that has been done by general studies of these limited/biased data for inferring patterns. Long-term longitudinal studies on biodiversity patterns of important forest sites and population biology of selected populations are urgently needed, as these have been almost entirely neglected to date. Crucial issues are still to be solved: for instance, it remains fully unresolved whether wildlife can best be protected through the promotion of human economic development or through integral conservation of important biodiversity areas.

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