Congo Basin peatlands: threats and conservation priorities
journal contributionposted on 23.04.2018, 15:44 by G. C. Dargie, I. T. Lawson, T. J. Rayden, L. Miles, E. T. A. Mitchard, Susan E. Page, Y. E. Bocko, S. A. Ifo, S. L. Lewis
The recent publication of the first spatially explicit map of peatlands in the Cuvette Centrale, central Congo Basin, reveals it to be the most extensive tropical peatland complex, at ca. 145,500 km 2 . With an estimated 30.6 Pg of carbon stored in these peatlands, there are now questions about whether these carbon stocks are under threat and, if so, what can be done to protect them. Here, we analyse the potential threats to Congo Basin peat carbon stocks and identify knowledge gaps in relation to these threats, and to how the peatland systems might respond. Climate change emerges as a particularly pressing concern, given its potential to destabilise carbon stocks across the whole area. Socio-economic developments are increasing across central Africa and, whilst much of the peatland area is protected on paper by some form of conservation designation, the potential exists for hydrocarbon exploration, logging, plantations and other forms of disturbance to significantly damage the peatla nd ecosystems. The low level of human intervention at present suggests that the opportunity still exists to protect the peatlands in a largely intact state, possibly drawing on climate change mitigation funding, which can be used not only to protect the peat carbon pool but also to improve the livelihoods of people living in and around these peatlands.