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FAO-Backed Research Project Indicates Africa Could Be a Significant Carbon Sink

CarboAfrica project25 November 2008: According to research conducted by CarboAfrica, an international research consortium of 15 institutions from Africa and Europe that includes the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Africa could be absorbing more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits.

After a two-year study in 11 African countries on the continentent's role

in the global carbon cycle, researchers indicate that Africa accounts

for up to 50% in atmospheric variations of carbon dioxide between

seasons, and from year to year. This impact is due to changes in the

balance between carbon captured through photosynthesis by Africa’s vast

expanse of forests and savannas, and emissions from fires,

deforestation and forest degradation.

Riccardo Valentini, University of

Tuscia, Italy, and CarboAfrica project coordinator, explained that

evidence so far indicates that Africa seems to be a carbon sink,

“meaning that it takes more carbon out of the atmosphere than it

releases.” He further noted that, if confirmed, the study implies that

Africa “contributes to reducing the greenhouse effect, thus helping

mitigate the consequences of climate change.” The preliminary results

of the project, which will continue through 2010, were presented at the

Open Science conference on “Africa and the Carbon Cycle: the

CarboAfrica project,” held from 25-27 November 2008 in Accra, Ghana.

Speaking during the opening of the conference, Helena Semedo, FAO

Regional Office for Africa, stressed the role of agriculture in

reducing Africa’s carbon emissions. She called for efforts to “reach

out to farmers in Africa” to teach them “how to use their land and

their forests in such a way that Africa’s carbon cycle becomes our ally

in the battle against climate change,” noting that greenhouse gas

emissions from agriculture can be reduced using appropriate soil

management techniques, while increasing productivity. [FAO Press Release] [CarboAfrica Website]