Gabon’s large trees store huge amounts of carbon. What must be done to protect themThe Weekend Conversation

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Africa Edition | 1 August 2020 [image: The Conversation] Academic rigour, journalistic flair
Tropical forests remove 15% of the carbon dioxide emissions that humans produce, and Africa’s tropical forests play a big part in this. These forests are under threat as commercial interests and communities cut down trees for timber or to clear land for agriculture. John Poulsen explains how Gabon, the second most forested country in the world, is working with other countries, Norway in particular, to save its forests. Gabon’s largest trees store carbon more densely than old-growth forests in Amazonia. Cutting them down reduces the amount of carbon stored in forests.
In a complementary article, Tom Pugh argues that the world’s big, old forests must be saved. They store an enormous amount of carbon, keeping it out of the atmosphere, and will continue to do so, even if their net CO₂ uptake decreases.
Alex Chepstow-Lusty, on the other hand, shows why we must save animals if we are to save rainforests. The rainforest of central and west Africa is only about 2,000 years old. For 500 years before it reached its current size, it was regenerating after a dry period. The recovery was helped by seed dispersers such as chimpanzees, which are now threatened by deforestation and hunting. So, though a long view of the forest suggests that tropical ecosystems are resilient, a lot depends on protecting animals.
*Moina Spooner*
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