Study: Deforestation In S. Central Africa May Affect Climate

Study: Deforestation In S. Central Africa May Affect Climate

Deforestation in South Central Africa threatens ecosystems and livelihoods, but scientists say the damage is reversible if Africans use sustainable fuel instead of charcoal and stop burning forests to support agriculture and livestock, according to a ScienceWorld report.

Trees store carbon in their stems and branches, which helps reduce harmful carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere, the report says. Loss of trees could make a great impact on climate change. Tracking changes in woodlands across Africa may help scientists understand the effect of deforestation on weather patterns and improve predictions of global climate change.

Researchers identified a north-south divide throughout the forests and woodlands in Southern Africa. Areas most affected include Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique.

Fewer fires resulted in the north where there were higher rates of urbanization. Researchers analyzed studies of tree cover in African savannas, combining these with a 25-year record from satellite data.

“Land use in Africa influences how much its forests can grow – and their capacity for absorbing carbon emissions,” said Ed Mitchard, who led the study with the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences. “If humans reduce burning and cutting forests and savannas these will grow and help to limit the impact of carbon emissions, but instead in many places people are impacting more on woodlands and forests, adding to carbon emissions.”