The scientists used data on environmental factors that affect plant growth, such as climate and soil, to model the maximum amount of carbon that could be stored in vegetation across tropical Africa. They then used a satellite- derived map of carbon currently being stored in vegetation to determine the areas where there was a storage deficit.
These areas were then further sorted based on factors such as their land value, human population density, governance and potential for conservation. ‘We used our map, which showed where carbon forests would bring high returns, to ask where carbon-stocking by forestation would not only be highly profitable, but where it would also minimise conflict with people, and benefit biodiversity and people,’ explained Michelle Greve of the University of Pretoria, who led the study.
Among the areas with a particularly high potential were the upper Guinean rainforests of West Africa, and the lower Guinean rainforests, which are situated on the coast of Nigeria and Cameroon.
‘There is a great need to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Our approach exemplifies how strategies to do this can be targeted to optimise feasibility and co-benefits for biodiversity and people,’ said Jens-Christian Svenning of Aarhus University, one of the study’s co-authors.
This story was published in the February 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine