Democratic Republic of Congo set to lose as much as 20% of its forests

The University of Vermont has been busy looking at Congo’s rainforests, and the news as it stands is pretty bad. Unless the country puts in place strict new conservation efforts, they look like losing a massive 20% of their forests… which will in turn drive a dreadful 60% hike in CO2 emissions.

Examining some of the world’s biggest CO2 reserves

The researchers explored the fate of central Africa’s vast tropical forests, among the planet’s biggest carbon reserves where carbon is safely locked away. These forests traditionally have very low rates of deforestation, but the pressure is on to clear land for development, foreign nations are investing heavily in farming and land use management is in a state of chaos in many places.

Only 10% of the DRC’s forests are protected

The Democratic Republic of Congo is home to a vast area of unspoiled African forest which, between them, hang onto about 22 billion tons of carbon in their biomass. On the other hand just 10% of the nation’s forests are protected. And their current approach to forest management is well below standard.

The study simulated changes in land use and carbon emissions by computer, taking three likely policy scenarios into account and running the model between 2010 to 2050. The scientists found that passively protecting the DRC’s forests and savannah isn’t enough. It also revealed how increased conservation measures are essential for the ongoing protection of the forests and the many unique creatures that live there.

What’s the solution to the threat of deforestation in the DRC?

The sheer size and importance of the carbon sink these forests represent means they actually play a vital part in the global battle against an out-of-control carbon cycle. So what can be done in real terms?

For a start, better conservation efforts are a must, things like new protected areas, zoning land use wisely and thinking more about farming intensively than expanding the amount of land used to grow crops.

Assuming the DRC government acts fast these measures could cut deforestation by more than 50% compared to the current situation, when they’re doing more or less nothing.

Researchers have also added better worldwide support for REDD+ and a United Nations forest conservation and carbon reduction plan to the mix, in support of the country’s conservation goals. Let’s hope the research prompts fast and effective action.

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