High aboveground carbon stock of African tropical montane forests

Aida Cuni-Sanchez (Lead / Corresponding author), Martin J. P. Sullivan, Philip J. Platts, Simon L. Lewis, Rob Marchant, Gérard Imani, Wannes Hubau, Iveren Abiem, Hari Adhikari, Tomas Albrecht, Jan Altman, Christian Amani, Abreham B. Aneseyee, Valerio Avitabile, Lindsay Banin, Rodrigue Batumike, Marijn Bauters, Hans Beeckman, Serge K. Begne, Amy C. BennettRobert Bitariho, Pascal Boeckx, Jan Bogaert, Achim Bräuning, Franklin Bulonvu, Neil D. Burgess, Kim Calders, Colin Chapman, Hazel Chapman, James Comiskey, Thales de Haulleville, Mathieu Decuyper, Ben DeVries, Jiri Dolezal, Vincent Droissart, Corneille Ewango, Senbeta Feyera, Aster Gebrekirstos, Roy Gereau, Martin Gilpin, Dismas Hakizimana, Jefferson Hall, Alan Hamilton, Olivier Hardy, Terese Hart, Janne Heiskanen, Andreas Hemp, Martin Herold, Ulrike Hiltner, David Horak, Marie-Noel Kamdem, Charles Kayijamahe, David Kenfack, Mwangi J Kinyanjui, Julia Klein, Janvier Lisingo, Jon Lovett, Mark Lung, Jean-Remy Makana, Yadvinder Malhi, Andrew Marshall, Emanuel H. Martin, Edward T. A. Mitchard, Alexandra Morel, John T. Mukendi, Tom Muller, Felix Nchu, Brigitte Nyirambangutse, Joseph Okello, Kelvin S.-H. Peh, Petri Pellikka, Oliver L. Phillips, Andrew Plumptre, Lan Qie, Francesco Rovero, Moses N. Sainge, Christine B. Schmitt, Ondrej Sedlacek, Alain S. K. Ngute, Douglas Sheil, Demisse Sheleme, Tibebu Y. Simegn, Murielle Simo-Droissart, Bonaventure Sonké, Teshome Soromessa, Terry Sunderland, Miroslav Svoboda, Hermann Taedoumg, James Taplin, David Taylor, Sean C. Thomas, Jonathan Timberlake, Darlington Tuagben, Peter Umunay, Eustrate Uzabaho, Hans Verbeeck, Jason Vleminckx, Göran Wallin, Charlotte Wheeler, Simon Willcock, John T. Woods, Etienne Zibera

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    Abstract

    Tropical forests store 40-50 per cent of terrestrial vegetation carbon1. However, spatial variations in aboveground live tree biomass carbon (AGC) stocks remain poorly understood, in particular in tropical montane forests2. Owing to climatic and soil changes with increasing elevation3, AGC stocks are lower in tropical montane forests compared with lowland forests2. Here we assemble and analyse a dataset of structurally intact old-growth forests (AfriMont) spanning 44 montane sites in 12 African countries. We find that montane sites in the AfriMont plot network have a mean AGC stock of 149.4 megagrams of carbon per hectare (95% confidence interval 137.1-164.2), which is comparable to lowland forests in the African Tropical Rainforest Observation Network4 and about 70 per cent and 32 per cent higher than averages from plot networks in montane2,5,6 and lowland7 forests in the Neotropics, respectively. Notably, our results are two-thirds higher than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change default values for these forests in Africa8. We find that the low stem density and high abundance of large trees of African lowland forests4 is mirrored in the montane forests sampled. This carbon store is endangered: we estimate that 0.8 million hectares of old-growth African montane forest have been lost since 2000. We provide country-specific montane forest AGC stock estimates modelled from our plot network to help to guide forest conservation and reforestation interventions. Our findings highlight the need for conserving these biodiverse9,10 and carbon-rich ecosystems.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)536-542
    Number of pages7
    JournalNature
    Volume596
    Issue number7873
    Early online date25 Aug 2021
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2021

    Keywords

    • Carbon cycle
    • Ecosystem services
    • Forest ecology

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