Congo Basin forests: Climate science needed to unlock its value

Par Jordal Jordal

Source : The Africa

The COP26 donor statement committing $1.5bn to support the protection of the Congo Basin forests marks a watershed moment for the region.

The tropical forests of Central Africa are a world away from chilly Glasgow, yet they lie at the heart of the world’s collective drive to tackle climate change. The COP26 donor statement committing $1.5bn to support the protection of the Congo Basin forests marks a watershed moment for the region. For the first time, the global significance of the ecosystem services these forests provide has been recognised and valued.

The Congo Basin forests sequester carbon equivalent to around 4% of global emissions, protect precious biodiversity, support the livelihoods of 80 million people who live in and around the forest and – through their role in regulating rainfall from the Ethiopian highlands to the Sahel – support 300 million rural Africans. There’s real and massive value at stake.

Monitoring the effectiveness with which funds to protect the Congo Basin’s forests are deployed is therefore critical. Scientific data is key to measuring impact and creating trust.

A recent article in Nature magazine authored by Central African Ministers of Environment and scientists called for a ten-year climate science programme to study the role of the Congo Basin forests in climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation.

Science and conservation

We share the authors’ conviction that science must inform conservation development practice in tropical forest ecosystems. This was the motivation for The African Conservation Development Group (ACDG) to launch forestLAB, along with founding partners the LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the University of Stirling, which has a 40-year research history studying the Congo Basin forests through its research station at Lope in Gabon.

forestLAB has also signed a partnership agreement with CENAREST, the National Research Institute of Gabon, to ensure alignment with national research interests and support the next generation of scientific researchers in Central Africa.

Part of forestLAB’s work will include refining a new landscape-scale sustainable development methodology for tropical forest ecosystems. This model is applicable to our Grande Mayumba project in southern Gabon, which will protect critical biodiversity and provide regional socio-economic uplift while avoiding up to 200 million tonnes of carbon emissions over 25 years. Over a third of the land area is being set aside for biodiversity conservation.

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