Peatlands are one of the least understood and monitored ecosystems in the planet. Still, they contain the highest concentrations of organic carbon in their soil, and are a refuge for endangered species. These spongy wetlands help in protecting communities against erratic rainfall and raising water levels. If drained, degraded or burned, peatlands start emitting greenhouse gases and haze negatively affecting people and accelerating climate change. Currently, peatland-related emissions are estimated to raise up to five percent of the global greenhouse gas budget.
In 2017, researchers discovered that the peatlands of the Cuvette Centrale Peatland in the Congo Basin are much larger than previously estimated. They also estimated that these practically intact, forested peat soils contain approximately 30 Gigatons of carbon — equivalent to three years of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cuvette Centrale is currently hard to access and hosts small human communities and the world’s highest densities of western lowland gorillas, as well as bonobos, chimpanzees and forest elephants. The discovery of this largest, continuous peatland complex of the Congo Basin and its mapping are especially important because they help in identifying globally one of the areas that need protection for their climate and biodiversity value.
Since 1990s, peatlands in tropical, temperate and boreal regions have become notoriously famous for the intense wildfires and the extremely high greenhouse gas emissions per hectare when drained. Learning from other countries’ experience, both The Republic of Congo (RoC) and The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have committed to protect the Cuvette Congolaise with Indonesia and other partners to the Global Peatlands Initiative. Still, a lot needs to be understood to be able to take the peatlands into account in the future plans and development actions of the countries.
Francis Müller, Director of Pôle-relais tourbières à la Fédération des Conservatoires d’espaces naturels, France
Dr. Ifo Suspense, Marien Ngouabi University, Republic of Congo
Moderator: Anne Branthomme, FAO
This summit, organized by FAO in collaboration with the Global Landscapes Forum, aims to especially welcome public and private sector actors, civil society and academia, French-speaking media, people living or working with stakeholders in the Congo Basin, as well as development practitioners.
Materials to share with participants: Infographics Peatlands and Climate Change.