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Wetland loss is major cause of African greenhouse gas emissions

04-Nov-2009

Barcelona, Spain - Degradation of African wetlands and their organic peatsoils is one of the major sources of the continent’s growing greenhouse gas emissions. This conclusion follows from the first ever inventory of peatland carbon emissions per country, as presented by Wetlands International in cooperation with Greifswald University at this week’s UN climate talks (UN-FCCC) Barcelona.

Report: Global Peatland CO2 Picture

The report ‘The Global Peatland CO2 Picture’ of Wetlands International is the result of many years of work of a network of scientists, coordinated by the University of Greifswald. The report provides the first ever overview on peatlands and their status, carbon stocks and carbon emissions for all countries of the world. 

Due to drainage of wetlands, organic wetland (peat) soils are exposed to the air. As a result, the organic carbon that was built up over thousands of years decomposes and turns into the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. This process is taking place all over Africa, especially in tropical regions where large peatswamp wetlands occur and forestry and agriculture are causing wetland loss.

African situation

Emissions from African wetlands (peatsoil degradation) have grown by 20% since 1990; from 47 million to 57 million tonnes CO2 per year. For nine African countries, the loss of wetlands is a larger source of emissions than fossil fuels (see below the Annex table). In Sub-Sahara Africa (South Africa excluded), emissions from the loss of organic wetland soils (peat) have reached a magnitude equal to 25% of all fossil fuel emissions in this region. Although fossil fuel emissions of Africa are relatively small, the share of human induced peatland emissions in this region caused by wetland degradation is alarming.

Many of Africa’s large wetlands with carbon rich peat soils are under tropical forests in the Congo basin (Congo, D.R.C., Cameroon). Many of these are still intact. In other areas with large peatswamps such as the high altitude peatlands of Uganda or the wetlands of Mozambique, Guinea and Malawi, the situation is precarious. In these countries, up to 50% of these wetlands are degraded. Degradation is caused by drainage for agriculture and logging or erosion due to overgrazing.

What the UN Climate Convention needs to do

Noting the 10 Gigatonnes of soil carbon stored in African peatswamps, action has to be taken to prevent the expected increase of their loss in peat-supporting mechanisms. This is generally not only beneficial for the global climate, but also for local people that depend on wetlands directly or on the fresh water flows from these areas.

Wetlands International pleads for a global climate treaty that supports developing countries to address the loss of their wetlands. Proposals to halt emissions from deforestation (REDD) should tackle the alarming emissions due to the loss of both forested and unforested peatlands. The negotiations towards a new climate deal in Copenhagen are crucial for this.

See the report and press release about the Global Peatland CO2 Picture on www.wetlands.org (in English).

 

Annex: Emissions from Sub Saharan African countries[1]

Country

Area of country /area

Peatland area 2008

Peat carbon stock 2008

Total degrading peatland area 2008

Emissions 1990 from degrading peat

Emissions 2008 from degrading peat

Total fossil fuel emissions[2]

Peat as % of total fossil emissions

 

km2

km2

Mton C

km2

Mton CO2/a

Mton CO2/a

Mton CO2/a

%

Uganda

241.138

13.640

1.321,3

5.000

16,0

20,0

2,7

739%

Zambia

752.614

15.410

780,3

1.200

4,0

4,8

2,5

194%

Mozambique

799.380

1.933

185,2

800

3,0

3,2

2,0

157%

Guinea

245.857

955

40,2

500

2,0

2,0

1,4

147%

Burundi

27.834

148

69,6

63

0,1

0,3

0,2

129%

Somalia

637.700

196

19,0

50

0,2

0,2

0,2

116%

Malawi

118.484

673

64,1

300

1,2

1,2

1,0

114%

Dem. Rep.Congo

2.344.885

11.955

1.190,2

600

2,0

2,4

2,2

109%

Rwanda

26.338

791

117,8

205

0,4

0,8

0,8

106%

Madagascar

587.041

1.854

180,0

610

2,0

2,4

2,8

86%

The Gambia

11.295

48

0,6

20

0,1

0,1

0,2

45%

Angola

1.246.700

9.910

980,1

1.010

4,1

4,1

10,6

38%

Sudan

2.505.800

29.910

1.980,3

1.000

4,0

4,0

10,8

37%

Mali

1.240.192

396

39,0

50

0,2

0,2

0,6

35%

Kenya

582.646

4.900

490,2

1.000

2,0

4,0

12,2

33%

Burkina Faso

274.200

146

14,0

50

0,2

0,2

0,8

25%

Liberia

99.067

97

2,4

41

0,1

0,2

0,8

21%

Ivory Coast

322.462

678

65,1

300

1,0

1,2

6,9

17%

Sierra Leone

71.740

97

4,4

41

0,1

0,2

1,0

16%

Central Afr. Rep.

622.436

99

9,8

10

0,0

0,0

0,2

16%

Djibouti

23.200

54

5,2

18

0,1

0,1

0,5

15%

Swaziland

17.363

47

4,4

35

0,1

0,1

1,0

14%

Cameroon

475.442

3.991

398,0

100

0,4

0,4

3,6

11%

Zimbabwe

390.759

332

16,1

250

0,8

1,0

11,1

9%

Ethiopia

1.133.380

2.191

218,3

150

0,4

0,5

6,0

9%

Botswana

581.730

2.991

298,0

100

0,4

0,4

4,8

8%

Mauritania

1.031.000

57

5,4

31

0,1

0,1

1,7

7%

Guinea-Bissau

36.125

15

1,4

5

0,0

0,0

0,3

7%

Tanzania

945.100

4.493

248,4

90

0,3

0,4

5,4

7%

Togo

56.785

29

2,8

20

0,0

0,1

1,2

7%

Benin

112.622

96

9,0

50

0,2

0,2

3,1

6%

Chad

1.284.000

10

0,9

5

0,0

0,0

0,4

5%

Niger

1.267.000

76

2,0

10

0,0

0,0

0,9

4%

Gabon

267.667

1.999

199,8

20

0,0

0,1

2,1

4%

Congo

342.000

15.999

1.599,8

10

0,0

0,0

1,5

3%

Senegal

196.722

54

13,9

8

0,1

0,1

4,3

2%

Namibia

824.269

99

9,8

10

0,0

0,0

2,8

1%

Nigeria

923.768

1.081

105,9

300

0,8

1,2

97,3

1%

Ghana

238.500

98

9,6

20

0,1

0,1

9,2

1%

Equa.Guinea

28.051

8

0,8

2

0,0

0,0

4,4

0,2%

Eritrea

121.144

0

0,0

0

0,0

0,0

0,6

0,0%

Total ex S. Afr.

23.054.436

127.554

10.703,2

14.084

46,7

56,3

221,8

25%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

South Africa

1.219.090

295

58,9

71

0,2

0,3

414,6

0,1%



[1] Source unless otherwise stated: Wetlands International, November 2009, The Global Peatland CO2 Picture

[2] UN Statistics Division: http://mdgs.un.org/unsd/mdg/default.aspx. Figures for 2006 

Communications and Media Coordinator

Pape Diomaye THIARE

Communications and Media Coordinator

Wetlands International Africa

Email: pthiare@wetlands-africa.org

Phone: +221 33 869 16 81

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