New report highlights drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Africa

By Wallace Mawire

African Climate Reality Project has produced a research report under our their Sink Our CO2 campaign titled :A people-centred approach to managing Africa’s forests as a carbon sink  which reviews the state of Africa’s forests and their carbon stocks, highlighting the drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Africa, and recommends practices and policies to manage forest ecosystems to maximise their capacity as carbon sinks.

 It is reported that the  report can be used  to sensitize communities, host workshops,engaging  elected representatives on how they can best manage their forest ecosystems, and more.

It is reported that climate change is a fundamental threat to global prosperity. Since the Industrial Revolution, human-induced carbon emissions, such as the burning of fossil fuels, have increased the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere by nearly a third, contributing significantly towards the global climate crisis. As atmospheric concentrations of CO2 continue to rise, policy makers have had to explore means not only to reduce emissions, but also to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. One of the ways to achieve this is through the improved management of
ecosystems that behave as carbon sinks.

Between 1960 and 2015, only 44% of anthropogenic (human-induced) carbon emissions were stored in the atmosphere. The remainder was absorbed by the earth’s carbon sinks. Carbon sinks capture atmospheric CO2 and store it in reservoirs such as the ocean, forests, grasslands and soil. Intact forests and tropical forests in particular, play a vital role in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere via photosynthesis and are considered one of the few natural solutions to curbing climate change. Beyond their role in enhancing resilience to climate change, tropical forests are a source of goods and services that support rural livelihoods, health and safety, and food and energy security.

Until recently, tropical forests were considered robust and stable carbon sinks. However, higher temperatures and increased drought in response to climate change have stunted tree growth, increased tree mortality, and enhanced the risk of wildfires and pest outbreaks in tropical forests. In addition, deforestation and forest degradation around the globe releases more carbon into the atmosphere than the European Union. As such, there is concern that these factors may cumulatively reduce the overall strength of the tropical forest carbon sink and that, if left unaddressed, it may reverse into a source of CO2 in coming years.

Africa is home to around 18% of the world’s tropical forests, which cover approximately 23% of the continent in a band stretching from Senegal on the west coast to Jebel Hantara near Somalia. While 20% of the world’s photosynthesis occurs in African ecosystems, the continent is also responsible for 20% of global land use CO2 emissions from forest degradation and deforestation, with Africa exhibiting the highest loss of forest area in the world.

The report provides an in-depth review of the state and distribution of Africa’s tropical forests and their associated carbon stocks. It highlights the current drivers of deforestation and forest degradation in Africa and recommends practices and policies to best manage forest ecosystems in a way that maximises their capacity as a carbon sink.
African governments are urged to adopt and implement these recommendations in their respective countries and to ensure that their sustainable forest management approach has people at its core.

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