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The Congo Basin in an Era of Climate Change

World War Zero, a coalition fighting the climate crisis, has featured an op-ed piece by CBI’s Founding Co-Executive Director, Tom Smith. The article discusses the effects of climate change on biodiversity in the Congo Basin.

“Climate Week has just ended, and it’s important to remind ourselves that the future of the planet will depend on places such as Africa’s Congo Basin”

The rainforests of the Congo Basin are some of the most important centers of biological diversity on the planet and ground zero for climate change. New approaches that identify regions where evolutionary processes are actively producing and maintaining biological diversity, and where adaptive variation is maximized (under future climate change) will be key for preserving biodiversity.

Climate Week has just ended, and it’s important to remind ourselves that the future of the planet will depend on places such as Africa’s Congo Basin. The rainforests of the Congo Basin — about 1.4 million square miles in Central Africa — harbor one out of every five species. I first traveled here in 1983, to study speciation of birds in the rainforests of southern Cameroon. Being there goes right to your soul. In Cameroon’s rainforests alone, you can find more than 900 species of birds and 300 species of mammals. That includes 29 primate species — such as the critically endangered cross-river gorilla, with only around 400 left in the wild. I’ve walked the same rainforest path here 1,000 times and on any given day, I might see something remarkable I’ve never seen before — an insect with bizarre spines, or an animal behaving in a way that’s totally new. When you’re in the Congo Basin rainforests, you feel like you’re shrouded in a cloak of timelessness. You feel as if things will never change. But a lot has changed in the past 35 years.

Read the full article, The Congo Basin in an Era of Climate Change, at the World War Zero online magazine.