The terrestrial ecosystem of Ghana is spread in two major biomes, namely, the tropical high forest and the savannahs, which are subdivided into six agro-ecological zones to reflect the climate, vegetation and soils. These are the Sudan Savannah, Guinea Savannah, Coastal Savannah, Forest-Savannah Transitional, the Semi-deciduous Forest and the High Forest zones. Due to the diversity in agroecology in the two biomes, Ghana is endowed with rich biodiversity .
Ghana has abundant biological resources such as tropical high forests, savannahs, numerous coastal wetlands and a great variety of endemic butterflies and bird species. Records reveal that there could be as many as 221 species of amphibians and reptiles, 728 species of birds (15 species of waterbirds occur in internationally important numbers) and 225 mammalian species. Many areas, particularly the wetlands, serve as important components of the flyways for migratory species and are recognized in the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds. Five wetlands are designated as Ramsar sites. Two of these wetlands are located in highly urbanized areas in Accra, the capital of Ghana. They represent a vital stopover site for migratory species, and also provide ecosystem services to the local communities that are innumerable and often undervalued today .
Despite Ghana’s rich biodiversity, biodiversity is under threat. Ghana was the first country to have lost a major primate species (the red colobus monkey) since the Convention on Biological Diversity came into force . The decline in biodiversity and the resulting impacts on nature’s contributions to people threatens food, water, energy and health security with negative impacts on livelihoods. Drivers of biodiversity loss also exacerbate climate-related risks, land degradation and desertification, loss of habitats for migratory species, and loss of soil fertility and productivity .
Despite the rich biological resources, Ghana suffers from rapid deforestation and destruction of biodiversity. Between 1900 and 1990, Ghana lost 80% of its forest cover due to logging, followed normally by slash and burn agriculture. Timber harvesting, slash-and-burn agriculture, hunting, wildfires, mining, and rising demand for fuel wood are amongst the greatest threats to biodiversity in Ghana .
While habitat loss is the key factor in loss of biodiversity in Ghana as with other West and Central African countries, hunting is responsible for the threat to specific wildlife species. The hunting tradition is very strong in Ghana as in the other Guinean forest countries, and bush meat consumption has historically represented a significant source of protein for the rural population. The most commonly hunted game species are the larger birds and medium-sized mammals such as forest antelopes (duikers) and diurnal monkeys. Bush meat hunting, through slash-and-burn agriculture, will not necessarily cause significant negative ecological impacts when practiced at subsistence levels in areas of low human population density. However, levels of bush meat hunting in Central and West Africa have soared in recent years, especially as a function of logging. New logging roads provide easier access to formerly remote areas and allow hunters to move deeper into the forests .
Additional drivers of biodiversity loss in Ghana include invasive alien species; climate change effects; pollution; overfishing; poor resource governance; infrastructural development; urbanization; neglect of the role of traditional institutions in the management of natural resources; duplication of roles and responsibilities without clear direction for biodiversity conservation; and weak coordination, especially at the national level .
Marine ecosystems are experiencing a wide range of pressures such as fishing beyond the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), the use of inappropriate fishing methods such as light fishing, pair trawling, use of poisonous chemicals and pollution from local communities. This has led to a decline in fish stocks, loss of biodiversity, destruction of marine habitats and coastal erosion which affect livelihoods and ocean health .
Key policies and governance approach
Ghana’s first National Biodiversity Strategy was developed in 2002 . The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) was then revised in 2016 to effectively guide the sustainable utilization of the country’s biological resources and the integration of biodiversity issues into national development planning programmes . The 2016 NBSAP outlines four strategic objectives that are intended for (i) addressing the underlying causes of biodiversity loss; (ii) improving the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity; (iii) enhancing the benefits of biodiversity to all sectors of the economy; and (iv) enhancing the implementation of the national biodiversity action plan through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity-building. According to the NBSAP, these four strategic objectives are to be achieved within a period of 25 years and are to be implemented through a three-phase programme (2016–2020, 2021–2030 and 2030–2040) .
In Ghana, there are also several relevant policies and legislations governing management, development, and conservation of natural resources, such as the National Environment Policy (2014), Ghana Forest and Wildlife Policy (2012), and the Forestry Development Master Plan (2016-2036) . In addition, Ghana is developing its first Biodiversity Policy aimed at reducing threats to its over 6,000 flora and fauna to promote the sustainable utilization of biodiversity and benefits sharing to meet the people’s needs. The draft policy, which is at the consultation stage, is in line with the post-2020 global biodiversity conservation framework .
A National Biodiversity Commission has also been established with the overall responsibility for the formulation, coordination, and execution of programs and policies on biodiversity, as well as by promoting the necessary international cooperation with donor agencies and neighbouring countries .
SUCCESSES AND REMAINING CHALLENGES
Several efforts have been made by the government to address biodiversity loss; however, the rate of degradation and loss of habitat seems to show no sign of lessening in some parts of the country. This can be attributed to the persistent increase in demand for social and economic activities that consequently put pressure on biodiversity in these areas. Statistics show that whereas roughly 16% (over 38,000 km2) of the country’s total land area is under some form of protection, another 20–30% is being cultivated for cash and food crops .
Protected areas in Ghana’s forests, dry and sub-humid lands, as well as inland water, marine and coastal areas have been the country’s most successful area of implementation of the CBD. Thus, protected areas in the country have expanded, and the status of reserves have also been upgraded though some challenges still remain in this regard. There are currently 291 forest reserves and 15 wildlife protected areas that constitute the permanent forest estate of Ghana and are under the control and monitoring of the Forestry Commission. Legally speaking, Ghana currently has 21 wildlife conservation areas. Of these, there are six national parks and six resource reserves, six Ramsar Sites, and three wildlife sanctuaries. The country also has one strict nature reserve .
The successful implementation of the NBSAP will require a concerted action on all levels of governance including the traditional authorities, the private sector, civil society organizations and the Government of Ghana as a whole. The key considerations in the implementation of NBSAP will be efficient allocation of resources, strengthening linkages between different stakeholders and coordinating their activities . Although biodiversity issues are captured in the National Development Agenda, the level of coordination within and among the various actors (public, private and civil society) is generally poor. For instance, the link between research and practice is weak. Additionally, many of the institutions involved in biodiversity governance, at both the national and sub-national levels, have weak capacity .
Further, knowledge on biodiversity in Ghana is currently scanty with inaccuracies and gaps as available research and according information and data is incomplete. A critical look at the impact of development-oriented activities on Ghana’s fragile ecosystem is required, as a major area of concern still remains the lack of integration of biodiversity issues into development planning .
 Botchway, T.P., (2021). Implementing effective environmental policies for sustainable development: Insight into the implementation of the CBD in Ghana. Cogent Social Sciences, 7(1), p.1970893. https://doi.org/10.1080/23311886.2021.1970893.