Impacts of the forest definitions adopted by African countries on carbon conservation

Published on
October 11, 2018

A paper of Stéphane Mermoz, Alexandre Bouvet, Thuy Le Toan and Martin Herold: Impacts of the forest definitions adopted by African countries on carbon conservation, has been published in Environmental Research Letters 13 (2018).


In this paper, we aim to assess the impacts of the forest definitions adopted by each African country involved in the global climate change programmes of the United Nations on national carbon emission estimations. To do so, we estimate the proportion of national carbon stocks and tree cover loss that are found in areas considered to be non-forest areas. These non-forest areas are defined with respect to a threshold on the percentage of tree cover adopted by each country. Using percent tree cover and aboveground biomass maps derived from remote sensing data, we quantitatively show that in many countries, a large proportion of carbon stocks are found in non-forest areas, where a large amount of tree cover loss can also occur. We further found that under the REDD+ framework (reduced deforestation, reduced degradation, enhancement and conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests), some partner countries have proposed activities related to only reducing deforestation, even when a large proportion of their carbon stocks are stored outside forests. This situation may represent a limitation of the efficiency of the REDD+ mechanism, and could be avoided if these countries choose a lower tree cover threshold for their definition of forests and/or if they were are engaged in other activities.

Keywords: tropical forestry; savannahs; carbon stocks; REDD+