Africa’s rainforests absorb more carbon dioxide per hectare than Amazon
The Congo Basin rainforest in Central Africa is one of Earth’s so-called lungs. With an area as big as Western Europe, it is the second-largest rainforest in the world.
It absorbs 4% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year, offsetting more than the whole African continent’s annual emissions.
This represents about 1.1-billion tons of carbon dioxide per year — three times the amount emitted by the UK in 2019.
The Basin is also Africa’s thermostat as it regulates rainfall patterns, critical to dry areas in the Sahel region and beyond.
Yet researchers are still just discovering amazing facts about it. A recent multicountry study, the first of its kind, has discovered that the Congo Basin is the world’s most resilient rainforest to extreme heat and droughts.
Six countries house the Earth’s African lung — Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Republic of the Congo.
How Central African countries manage their share of the world's second-largest rainforest is critical.
The so-called lungs of Africa store more carbon per hectare than the Amazon, help regulate temperatures, and generate rain for millions in the arid Sahel and distant Ethiopian highlands.
The Congo Basin is vulnerable to deforestation mainly from smallholder charcoal production, logging and slush-and-burn agricultural initiatives to meet financial and energy needs.
Although its rate of deforestation is lower than that of other rainforests, it has increased significantly over the last two decades.
In particular, this is led by the DRC deforestation rate which is second only to that of the Brazilian Amazon. Civil society organisations report that restrictions during Covid-19 led to “a surge” in illegal logging as a source of income by forest communities and indigenous peoples.
The Congo Basin rainforest makes Gabon and some central African nations one of the world's most forested countries, a haven for endangered animals and one of the few net absorbers of climate-warming carbon dioxide.
Africa, which accounts for less than 4% of greenhouse gas emissions, has long been expected to be severely impacted by climate change.