A tower bristling with sensors juts above the cover in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo, measuring carbon dioxide (CO2) emitted from the world’s second-largest tropical rainforest.
Spanning several countries in central Africa, the Congo Basin rainforest covers an immense area and is home to a dizzying array of species.
But concerns are growing for the longer term of the forest, deemed critical for sequestering CO2, as loggers and farmers push ever deeper inside.
Scientists on the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve within the DRC’s Tshopo province are studying the rainforest’s role in climate change – a subject that received scant attention until recently.
Standing 55 metres (180 feet) tall, the CO2-measuring flux tower got here online in 2020 in the luxurious reserve of 250,000 hectares (620,000 acres). Yangambi was renowned for tropical agronomy research throughout the Belgian colonial era.
This week, it also hosted scientists as a part of meetings within the DRC dubbed pre-COP 27, ahead of the COP27 climate summit in Egypt in November.
Thomas Sibret, who runs the CongoFlux CO2 measuring project, said that flux towers are common worldwide.
But until one was arrange in Yangambi, there had been none in Congo, which had “limited our understanding of this ecosystem”, he said.
About 30 billion tonnes of carbon are stored across the Congo Basin, researchers estimated in a study in Nature in 2016. The figure is roughly such as three years of world emissions.
Sibret said more time is required to attract definitive conclusions from the information gathered by DRC’s flux tower, but one thing is for certain: the rainforest sequesters more greenhouse gases than it emits.
Paolo Cerutti, the pinnacle of the Center for International Forestry Research’s operations within the DRC, warned that slash-and-burn agriculture poses a specific threat to the longer term of the rainforest, mentioning that half 1,000,000 hectares of forest were lost last 12 months.
Slash-and-burn agriculture sees villagers cultivate lands until they turn into depleted, then clear forests to create latest lands, and repeat the cycle. With the DRC’s population of about 100 million people set to expand, many worry the forest is in dire threat.
There are efforts to assist farmers within the distant and impoverished region to make a living while sustaining the environment.
Helene Fatouma, the president of a women’s association, says fish ponds on the sting of the forest now yield 1,450 kilogrammes of fish in six months, versus 30 previously.
Experts also encourage using more efficient kilns to supply more charcoal and teach loggers tips on how to select which trees to fell.