The world’s largest carbon sink at risk, research center warns

The world’s largest carbon sink at risk, research center warns
A PhD student measuring the circumference of a tree in Kisangani, DRC. Photo by Ollivier Girard/CIFOR-ICRAF.
Leading experts on Central African forests spotlight the regional and global importance of the Congo Basin and the threats faced by the worlds second-largest rainforest
The Congo Basin is one of the world’s most significant wilderness areas and plays a pivotal role in global carbon sequestration. However, this ecosystem is now under threat from deforestation, degradation and the climate crisis.
The world’s second-largest tropical forest sequesters approximately 40 gigatons of carbon annually – roughly equivalent to all of the carbon emissions that humans produce each year, according to the State of the Forests report by the Observatory for Central African Forests (OFAC).
“This is a global issue. The Congo Basin is a major source of rainfall in the Sahel region. A huge proportion of the world’s ecosystem services come from this region,” said Richard Eba’a Atyi, Regional Coordinator for Central Africa at CIFOR-ICRAF, at a forum in Bonn, Germany.
The forests of Central Africa also provide 75 million people with vital natural resources, spanning Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
“It’s not conservation for conservation’s sake, but for the benefit of the local communities and Indigenous Peoples who live there and their livelihoods and well-being. If we have those forests standing there today, it is because people are taking care of them,” said Dr Aurelie Flore Koumba Pambo, Facilitator at the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP).
Despite their critical importance, the forests of the Congo Basin are being destroyed at an alarming rate, with projections suggesting that they could shrink by 27% by 2050 unless urgent action is taken.
Mining and logging activities are major drivers of deforestation in the region and are often carried out illegally or without concern for sustainability. Experts believe a better understanding of the Congo Basin’s forests is needed to address these root causes.
“It is difficult to manage natural resources if we have no information about them. Science is needed to inform those in charge of decision making, and this requires not only human but also financial resources,” said Eba’a Atyi.
Over the 10-year period from 2008 to 2017, the forest and environment sector in Central Africa accounted for only 11.5% of global financing for the conservation and sustainable management of tropical forests. Experts say urgent action is required to secure funding for the conservation of these high-integrity forests.
The OFAC Hybrid Forum: What is the state of Central African forests?, presented by OFAC and hosted by the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF), gathered over 700 leading experts, practitioners and policymakers in Bonn, Germany, and online.