- Title: GABON: Congo Basin forests soften climate change blow
- Date: 14th December 2009
- Summary: VARIOUS OF RESEARCHERS ARRANGING SAMPLES OF PLANTS VARIOUS OF RESEARCHERS PUTTING PLANT SAMPLES IN ENVELOPES FOR DNA ANALYSIS (SOUNDBITE) (French) BOTANICAL RESEARCHER DIOSDADO NGUEMA, SAYING: "The small envelopes are to take DNA samples, which the specialists use to identify the plants. It's a new method to identify plants through their DNA." VARIOUS AERIALS OF FORESTS
- Embargoed: 29th December 2009 02:42
- Location: Gabon
- Country: Gabon
- Topics: Environment / Natural World
- Reuters ID: LVA84VS83XQOTT5UCK5DOO2T31G9
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Recent scientific studies revealed that African Nations can benefit financially from keeping their forests standing, rather than cutting them down for timber.
It also said Africa's tropical rainforests play a major role in regulating the global climate by absorbing around 1.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year - over 5% of fossil fuel emissions.
The Congo Basin Rainforest -- the second largest forest ecosystem after the Amazon -- which makes up 18% of the world's remaining tropical rainforest, was pivotal to this research.
"It is very important for African Nations to know that they potentially have a very important role to play in these climate change negotiations. It's like they have a large stock of carbon and if the forest is being cut or logged or whatever disappeared, burnt, changed by land use, then you will increase the carbon gases in the atmosphere and that would make things worse," said Missouri Botanical Garden Researcher, Miguel Leal.
Currently developing countries can sell carbon credits for greenhouse gas reducing projects in the industry, but not for protecting their forests. But some rainforest nations are pushing for forest carbon credits in the next international climate deal - to be discussed this December at the United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen.
This study is a persuasive scientific backing for rainforest nations' request to include forest protection in the climate deal.
The study used 40 years of data on 79 plots across West, Central and East Africa, including these old-growth forests of Gabon, to show that African forests are increasingly taking in more carbon.
The amount of carbon in the forests is calculated by monitoring tree diameters, location, height and species (each species has a different wood density).
Researcher Prince Bissiemou has been measuring tree heights over he past 3 years for the research purposes.
"At the beginning you are scared, but then after a while when you get used to climbing, you are not scared anymore. But it is still risky because sometimes you are not the only one up there - sometimes there is a snake in the tree - and if you don't have the heart - you can end up jumping out," said Bissiemou.
To find the density of the tree, the researchers need to identify its species, which can be intricate.
The group takes 3 samples from every plant, one goes to the herbarium in Gabon's capital -- the remaining two go to herbariums in Europe and the United States.
The group has also started doing molecular analysis of plants.
"The small envelopes are to take DNA samples, which the specialists use to identify the plants. It's a new method to identify plants through their DNA," said Diosdado Nguema from Equitorial Guinea, a botanist on the research team.
Gabon is roughly 75% forest cover, and 10% of the country is protected as part of the National Park System, put aside by late President Omar Bongo in 2002.
But in recent years, forestry and mining concessions have threatened much of Gabon's countryside, even within its national parks.
Conservation of the forests and their massive store of carbon is crucial to preventing dangerous levels of climate change. Making conservation economically viable through carbon trading is a first step to forest conservation, but it needs support from both the international community and African governments.
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