Scientists launch research effort at COP28 for Congo rainforest

By Jake Spring

SAO PAULO, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Hundreds of scientists at the United Nations COP28 climate summit on Sunday launched a research coalition aimed at correcting a historic lack of information about the Congo River basin and its rainforest, the second largest in the world.

The Science Panel for the Congo Basin, backed by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, aims to issue a report in 2025 that offers the most detailed scientific assessment to date about the Congo Basin.

"We are talking about a unique ecosystem that supports hundreds of millions of people, and also it plays a crucial role in the regulation of the Earth's climate," said Raphaël Tshimanga, co-chair of the panel and a water expert at University of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"Our current knowledge of the functioning of the Congo Basin ecosystem is really very, very limited."

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, home to most of the forest, had the second highest rate of tree cover loss in the world last year after Brazil, according to Global Forest Watch.

That destruction releases greenhouse gas, helping to drive global warming, and destroys vital plant and animal habitats.

The scientific effort is modelled on the Science Panel for the Amazon that in 2021 issued a roughly 1,300 page report summarising the scientific consensus on the Amazon rainforest, the world's largest.

That report showed that more than 10,000 species in the Amazon risk extinction, explained its role in the global climate system and quantified how much carbon the forest contains.

More than 300 scientists are expected to contribute to the Congo report, Tshimanga said.

It will include sections on how the Congo regulates the regional climate, human impacts on the forest ecosystem and how scientific data can be used to inform government policy, he said.

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(Reporting by Jake Spring; editing by Barbara Lewis)