The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC or Congo) is home to the world’s second largest rainforest, covering over 515,000 square miles, the greatest expanse of rainforest in all of Africa. The rainforest covers roughly 60% of the country.
Deforestation in the DRC is driven by small-scale slash and burn agriculture, as well as mining and commercial logging. From 1990-2005 the DRC lost more than 26,000 square miles of forest to logging, close to 5% of all the rainforest. However, between 2002 and 2005 the government of the DRC granted 15 million hectares, over 57,000 square miles of rainforest concessions to logging companies- or more than 9% of the total rainforest. If the trend continues, by 2050 the DRC risks loss of 40% of its forests, and this loss will release 34.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Currently only 43,000 square miles of the rainforest has a protected status, safeguarding it from commercial uses.
The rainforest in the Congo directly affects weather and rainfall patterns both in the region, and in the North Atlantic. Loss of forest has a direct and disastrous effect on global warming and will result in increased flooding, heat waves, droughts, and rising oceans. Deforestation effects climate change in two distinct ways.
First, forests serve as reservoirs for carbon. The forests in the DRC account for 8% of all global carbon stores, the 4th largest carbon reservoirs of any country in the world. According to Simon Lewis, a researcher at the University of Leeds, "Tropical forest trees are absorbing about 18% of the CO2 added to the atmosphere each year from burning fossil fuels, substantially buffering the rate of climate change."
Second, the process of cutting down the trees in the forest and plowing the earth itself releases carbon into the atmosphere. Emissions from deforestation are about 25% of all global carbon dioxide emissions resulting from human activities.
Reversing the trend of deforestation in the DRC is essential to combating global climate change.
You can help reduce deforestation in the DRC and combat global warming by signing up for action alerts on Africa Action's website. Staying aware and active in the fight to reduce deforestation in the DRC is essential to ensuring that local populations are able to thrive in an ecologically sustainable way and benefit from their own resources.
During the holiday season, shop responsibly! Make sure that any gifts that you purchase do not contain timber from the Congo rainforests. Learn more by visiting the Forest Stewardship Council at: http://www.fscus.org/faqs/fsc_products.php.
By Meryl M. Zendarski