The Congo rainforest is also known as the Earth’s second lung – the Amazon rainforest being the first one – since it is the second largest tropical forest of the world. It covers the territories of six central African Countries: portions of the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, and Gabon.
Situated in the Congo basin, this rainforest is vital for our planet. Unfortunately, in the past years, it has been shrinking. Here are the reasons why this territory must be preserved and what makes it hard to do so.
Why Is Congo Rainforest Important
The Congo rainforest plays an important role in mitigating global warming. It is a carbon sink, as it traps carbon thus preventing it from becoming carbon dioxide. As a result, it holds around 8% of the world’s forest-based carbon. The forests of the Congo basin also influence rainfall on the North Atlantic. These forests play a crucial role on the severity of climate change and its effects on our planet.
Moreover, the importance of the Congo basin lays in its biodiversity. In fact, it is home to around 10,000 species of plants – 30% of which are endemic to the region -, more than 400 species of mammals and 1000 species of birds. This territory has also welcomed approximately 150 ethnic groups over the years. Some of the tribes still live following the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
Where Lays the Problem
The Congo rainforest, even though it has on of the lowest deforestation rates – if compared to the Amazon rainforest for example – has lost around 6% of its tree cover in the past two decades. And what lays at heart of this phenomenon is the poverty of the people who inhabit its surroundings. The majority of Congolese survive on what they grow themselves and their population is increasing. Therefore, in order to make space for crops, they chop down the forest’s trees.
Moreover, people cannot afford gas or electric ovens, so they cannot help but rely on the charcoal for survival. Another way in which people rely on charcoal, is by trading it: they take advantage of the Congo river to transport charcoal and sell it. Hunters also contribute to deforestation by employing fire to hunt down their preys.
This problem is also increased by the lack of enforcement of laws. This is mainly because police are corrupt and so is the government. However, until the situation of those living on the territory will not improve, it is very unlikely that deforestation of the Congo rainforest will slow down.