Unlike other planets in the universe, the earth is blessed with abundant vegetation and lush forests. To some, a forest is a go-to place for hunting animals either for sport or as an occupation, while for others the appeal is its cluster of trees that can be felled to produce timber and other wooden products.
What many are yet to know is that forests act to balance the climate especially during this global fight against climate change. For one, they help to regulate ecosystems and protect biodiversity among other benefits.
A recent study carried out by British and Rwandan researchers calls for more conservation of Africa’s mountain forests. This becomes even more important as analyses have shown that these ecosystems absorb far more carbon than previously thought.
In a bid to examine the rate at which African forests can absorb carbon, the researchers selected 44 mountain forests across 12 African countries. They discovered that that the potential of Africa’s mountain forests is actually 150 tonnes per hectare, double the amount of climate scientists’ analysis. For instance, in a report published in 2019, the experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) gave storage of about 89 tonnes per hectare for African forests.
“If African forests are capturing so much carbon, it could be because of elephants and other herbivores. This is because large animals eat the tall grass, leaving large spaces for the big trees to grow. However, more study is needed to be sure,” says Aida Cuni-Sanchez, a tropical forest ecologist at the University of York in the UK.
Not only the Amazon, but Africa’s mountain forests are also extremely vulnerable
The study changed the perception of Africa’s forests. Having revealed the great absorptive capacity of African forests, the researchers prove that mountain forests in Africa are as vulnerable as the Amazon forest. Hence, they need to be protected since they also play an essential role in the fight against global warming.
Even with this, deforestation and forest degradation on the continent keep rising to alarming levels. It has been estimated that since the dawn of the 21st century, Africa has lost about 0.8 million hectares of forest, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, and Uganda.
To this end, scientists have decried man-made deforestation on the continent warning that the lost hectares are equivalent to releasing more than 450 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.