Enviro Monday: The Congo Basin’s demise will affect the whole planet

The vast forest of the Congo Basin is the second largest tropical rainforest on earth and is considered to be the lungs of Africa. Supporting an astonishing range of life, its 500 million acres also help sustain life across the whole planet.

The Congo Basin spans six countries – Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

Teeming with life (for the moment)

  • The Congo Basin’s rivers, forests, savannas, and swamps teem with life.
  • Many endangered species, including forest elephants, chimpanzees, bonobos, and lowland and mountain gorillas inhabit the lush forests.
  • About 400 other species of mammals, 1,000 species of birds and 700 species of fish can also be found here.
  • There are approximately 10, 000 species of tropical plants in the Congo Basin and 30 percent are unique to the region.

50 000 years’ knowledge of medicinal plants

The Congo Basin has been inhabited by humans for more than 50,000 years and it provides food, medicine, fresh water, materials and shelter to more than 75 million people.

Among some 150 different ethnic groups, the Ba’Aka, BaKa, BaMbuti, Efe and other related groups – often referred to as Pygmies – are representatives of an ancient hunter-gatherer lifestyle. They possess an incredible knowledge of the forest, its animals and its medicinal plants. Their lives and well-being are linked intimately with the forest.

The forest and the life it sustains is under huge threat

The Congo Basin forest is under threat as the unquenchable global thirst for natural resources, grows.

It is extremely rich in wood, oil and minerals such as diamonds, gold and coltan (used to make cell phones), but current methods and rates of extracting these resources are unsustainable and threaten the future of this vast wilderness area.

Logging, oil palm plantations and road development are putting pressure on the forests and rivers. The biggest threats come from industrial logging and large-scale agriculture.

The construction of roads has greatly facilitated access to remote forest areas for hunters and poachers.

The unsustainable hunting of wildlife for the commercial bushmeat market threatens to wipe out many species. In the DRC alone, over a million tons of bushmeat are consumed each year.

The Congo Basin and climate change

The Congo Basin is the fourth largest carbon reservoir in the world. It plays a critical role in regulating the global climate and halting runaway climate change.

Old-growth forests in Central Africa store huge volumes of carbon in their vegetation and tree trunks (39 billion tons) that act as an important buffer against climate change.

If nothing is done to stop the increased fragmentation of intact forests, not only will wildlife suffer, but carbon storage will be reduced, forest fires may increase, and the forests’ resilience to climate change will be damaged. It may also displace forest peoples who have lived in these areas for thousands of years.

Save the Congo Basin

Greenpeace and civil society are playing a huge role in the battle to save the Congo Basin forest from agricultural plantations and logging.

In the face of the huge threats in the Congo Basin forest, people from all over central Africa are standing up for forest protection and for the right to take back their lives, culture and future.

To support this movement and spread it along the Congo Basin, the Esperanza ship, the largest of the Greenpeace fleet, sailed along the coast of Central Africa from October 13 to November 10 2017 with the aim of connecting people from all over the world to resist forest destruction.

  AUTHOR
Caxton Central

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