A new research study has shown that the Congo rainforest is more efficient at absorbing carbon dioxide than the Amazon rainforest. This highlights the important role that the Congo plays in combating climate change and mitigating its damaging effects.
The study looked at the impact of the worst case of El Niño, in 2015-16, on the world’s rainforests’ ability to absorb CO2. El Niño is a climate phenomenon that occurs every few years when the surface level of the Pacific Ocean heats up, which can trigger droughts and floods across the world. The study found that, while in the Amazon and rainforests in south-east Asia, trees temporarily stopped absorbing CO2, trees in the Congo continued to take in CO2, though at a slower rate.
What does this mean?
This suggests that the Congo rainforest is more resilient than other large global rainforests, absorbing more damaging greenhouse gases than other parts of the world in periods of increased heat. This only serves to emphasize the importance of protecting it. Losing the Congo rainforest could result in the release of 80 billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. There is a concern that, like the Amazon, trees in the Congo are slowly losing their ability to efficiently absorb CO2. This is because increases in global temperatures and drought periods that are more frequent and severe are stifling the growth of trees and damaging the rainforest’s biodiversity (variety of plant and animal life). A new study predicted that by 2030, the Congo will be able to absorb 14% less CO2 annually than it did 10-15 years ago.
What can be done?
However, there is hope. The Greenpeace Africa Congo Basin Forest Campaign is determined to protect this vital tool in combating climate change. The project’s leader, Irene Wabiwa, said that African governments must shift support from industries that degrade the rainforest and exploit its natural resources. Instead, governments should increase support for local communities and empower them to guard and protect the rainforest and its vibrant biodiversity.