the forest, between the hammer of global warming and the anvil of

The seventh report on the forests of the Congo Basin, published on July 7 by 150 researchers and experts, seven years after the previous one, aims to give leaders the keys to better take into account this flora, which is so rich and vital, both for the environment and for the economic development of Central Africa.

First lesson: The forests of the Congo Basin are doing well. At least for now: Of the 200 million hectares of forest in Central Africa, large isolated areas do not yet appear to be affected by human activity.

But researchers say the pressure is mounting. Agriculture, construction of roads, mines, exploitation of wood … Population growth and economic development weigh on forests more and more. In twenty years, 18 million hectares have already disappeared.

Consequences: the emergence of zoonoses, infectious diseases transmitted to humans by animals. Tropical forests house a large variety of as yet unknown viruses and bacteria. By going further and further into the forest, by encroaching on the territory of wild animals, populations can come into contact with these microbes. The report therefore recommends improving health and prevention systems, but also limiting human impact on these complex ecosystems.

Sustainable management of these forests is also a necessity to preserve their ability to limit climate change. Because even though they are smaller than the Amazon, the researchers explain that with larger and taller trees, the forests in the Congo Basin now absorb more carbon than the Amazon forests.

However, combating deforestation and preserving them at all costs is not necessarily realistic, even if their importance for the climate is better taken into account internationally. Guillaume Lescuyer, a researcher at CIRAD, the French Center for International Cooperation in Agricultural Research, is one of the staff. author and editor of this report and discusses the challenges posed.

The main argument used by both international donors and recipient countries is carbon: to limit deforestation to prevent carbon from being released into the atmosphere. […] The most important declarations on funding from international donors are made at the COP on climate change, the one in Glasgow in this case where 1.5 billion has been committed by donors as part of the fight against climate change and therefore carbon sequestration […] It is not yet effective in terms of available resources and results achieved (because) the rate of deforestation has tended to increase over the last ten to fifteen years in the subregion […] There is a link between the desire to limit deforestation and development policy in those countries that are particularly based on agriculture, agro-industry, industrial exploitation of trees.

► Read: 2021 report on the state of Central African forests

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