USFS Hosts Side Event at Congo Basin Forest Partnership Meeting in Kinshasa

The Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) was established by former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Central African Heads of State during the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in response to the UN General Assembly’s call for conservation efforts in the Congo Basin forests. The partnership aims to enhance biodiversity conservation, sustainable forest management, climate change mitigation, and poverty reduction in Central Africa, supporting the vision of the Central African Heads of State and aligning with the COMIFAC Convergence Plan.

CBFP partners meet annually, and this year’s 20th Meeting of the Parties (MOP) was held in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) from May 31st to June 5th. During the week, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) hosted a side event focused on applying remote sensing technology to enhance the understanding of tropical ecosystem dynamics. This side event was an opportunity to share ongoing work in Congo Basin countries that aims to promote sustainable forest management and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These efforts are crucial for improving local livelihoods, conserving biodiversity, and stabilizing the global climate. The side event brought together prominent researchers from the Congo Basin, the U.S., and Europe to discuss and exchange ideas on forest conservation.

The session, moderated by USFS DRC Climate Fellow Carine Bourgeois, facilitated a comprehensive dialogue on critical environmental issues, fostering collaboration among the international community of researchers and practitioners dedicated to forest conservation. Ani Zamgochian, Director of USAID’s Central Africa Program for the Environment (CARPE) gave the welcoming address.

Dr. Moira Hough from Michigan Tech University shared her work on mapping and quantifying carbon stock in humid tropical forest areas. Photo courtesy of Lisa Loukounyi, U.S. Forest Service International Programs.

The event then featured a series of presentations, starting with Dr. Moira Hough from Michigan Tech University, who shared her work on mapping and quantifying carbon stock in humid tropical forest areas. Peat is defined as dead, partially decomposed organic plant material accumulated in water-saturated soil, with at least 3 percent organic carbon, while peatlands are described as ecosystems with a peat layer of at least 15 cm depth. The Congo Basin’s peatlands covered 16.7 million hectares, storing 28 percent of the carbon of all tropical peatlands, equivalent to three years of global fossil fuel emissions. However, these peatlands are vulnerable to climate change and land use changes, with only 8 percent in protected areas and 25 percent threatened by logging, mining, and palm oil development. The presentation underscored the importance of efforts to map and study peatlands for informed decision-making and sustainable management of DRC’s peatland ecosystems and updated partners on work that has taken place since USFS’s CBFP presentation last year.

Patrick Lola Amani from the University of Maryland  discussed methods to estimate net emissions due to forest cover change to enable government agencies to track land use change transitions. Photo courtesy of Lisa Loukounyi, U.S. Forest Service International Programs.

Patrick Lola Amani from the University of Maryland then highlighted the importance of improving access to and use of data, tools, and advanced technologies for land use and forest policy, monitoring, and management. He discussed methods to estimate net emissions due to forest cover change to enable government agencies to meet forest landscape commitments and track land use change transitions beyond forest cover change to integrate all land use transitions. Additionally, he emphasized supporting the design of MRV systems and estimation of historic emissions in Emission Reduction Programs as well as assessing opportunities for institutional collaboration and strengthening the remote sensing capacity of regional forest inventory data management agencies.

Dr. Lebienfaiteur Sagang from the UCLA Jet Propulsion Laboratory then introduced CTrees, a nonprofit founded in 2022 focused on enhancing global carbon measurement and reporting through scientific data and digital Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) systems. Based in California with global partnerships, CTrees addresses critical challenges such as discrepancies in carbon flux estimates between national reports and IPCC data, fragmented approaches in national forest inventories, and limited MRV capabilities in tropical forest countries. By integrating remote sensing technology and AI to improve spatial resolution and accuracy in carbon accounting, CTrees aims to facilitate informed climate action by providing robust, accessible data tools that support global efforts in carbon management and climate finance, crucial for achieving sustainable development goals.

Dr. Lebienfaiteur Sagang from the UCLA Jet Propulsion Laboratory introduced CTrees, a nonprofit founded in 2022 focused on enhancing global carbon measurement and reporting through scientific data and digital Monitoring, Reporting, and Verification (MRV) systems. Photo courtesy of Lisa Loukounyi, U.S. Forest Service International Programs.

Finally, John Katembo and Vivien Bbidjo presented on behalf of the PANGEA project. PANGEA is a scoping study for a NASA Terrestrial Ecology Campaign, led by UCLA, which aims to address critical questions regarding tropical forest ecosystems. Recognizing the pivotal role of tropical regions in global climate and biodiversity, PANGEA seeks to advance scientific understanding, enhance resilience assessments, and inform climate adaptation strategies. Key objectives include leveraging new airborne and spaceborne technologies to study complex tropical landscapes, from intact forests to degraded areas, wetlands, and agroecosystems. The initiative emphasizes interdisciplinary collaboration, capacity building, and creating pathways for actionable insights into climate mitigation, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable land use. PANGEA is still in its scoping phase, with the launch workshop having taken place in February 2024 in Yaoundé, Cameroon. The PANGEA team is currently undertaking extensive community engagement and feasibility assessments, as these are crucial for defining the campaign’s geographic scope and scientific priorities before potential long-term implementation.

USFS works with over forty partners in Central Africa, including host country governments, universities, and local and international non-governmental organizations. Technical documents and resources, program products, and factsheets about our program are available on our resources and publications page.

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