Researchers at Florida State University has revealed that , carbon that’s been locked up in the Congo’s soils for 100’s to 1000’s of years is starting to seep out.
Congo basin, the world’s second largest tropical forest after the Amazon currently holds 20 billion tons of carbon in its soil.
Researchers analysed the samples of river water from 19 sites in the Kivu region of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, representing a gradient from pristine forest to completely deforested.
It is to be noted that, approximately 927 square miles of forest were lost in the region from 2000 to 2010.
In order to find what’s being lost from the system, researcher’s analysed the radiocarbon age and chemical makeup of dissolved carbon, which leaches into the rivers from the nearby soils.
According to the research Pristine forests were leaking young, modern carbon that plants had recently pulled out of the air through photosynthesis.
But researchers were shocked when they noticed the carbon leaking from completely deforested sites was about 1,500 years old.
“Most of our deforested catchments had lost their tree cover more than two decades before the study, so post-deforestation erosion is a major factor,” study author Travis Drake said.
This age indicated to the researchers that they were looking at carbon from deeper parts of the soil—stuff that was once stable but, as the trees are cleared and fields are plowed, is being surfaced and lost.
“The seasonal tilling of croplands followed by heavy rains likely erodes the surface soils, exposing the older [carbon] we measured in the streams.”– he added.
“Generally, classic sustainable agricultural practices would probably go a long way, especially the implementation of terraces to prevent erosion,” Drake said.
According to WWF’s Central African regional office (CARPO) , Congo basin loses 3.7 million acres a year to agriculture, logging, road development, oil exploitation and mining.
According to a another Study “Since 2003, the total length of roads near congo basin has increased by nearly 100,000 kilometres — from 144,000 to 231,000 kilometres”
“Two-thirds of the forests in the Congo River Basin could disappear within 50 years if logging and mineral exploitation continues at current rates”– environmental group WWF said in a report.