Carbon and the tropical rainforest
Each year, humans and their activities release 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide, according to data of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Yet we find only 15 billion released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. What happens to the rest? Scientists are still debating the general mechanics of the carbon cycle and some of its workings are still poorly known. After oceans, rainforests play a big role in the sequestration of carbon, due to their scope and intense biological activity. But quantitatively, the question about their influence remains unanswered.
The rainforest covers about 42% of the global forest area, 14% is the Amazon rainforest. French Guiana in turn represents 0.4%.
These forests play a major role in the exchange of carbon between the biosphere and atmosphere and in regulating the carbon cycle. Therefore, a small variation of the carbon cycle in these forests could have a major impact on the entire planet.
When a tree grows, it produces wood using carbon dioxide from the air and thereby stores carbon. At its death, it falls and billions of bacteria, fungi and insects feed on and break down the tree and redirect the carbon into the atmosphere. So, should the forest be called a ‘carbon sink’ or a ‘carbon source’?
In late 2005, a comprehensive program to fight against massive deforestation of tropical rainforests is set up by the United Nations: REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation). Indeed, the destruction of forests around the world would be responsible for the release of 20% of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere annually.
Carbon and RNR Trésor
Many scientists have shown interest in the diversity and complexity of the French Guianese forest ecosystems, their role and their importance regarding carbon sequestration. RNR Trésor enjoys a special interest due to its location (the mountain of Kaw, the wettest region of Eastern Amazonia) and the diversity of its natural habitats, coupled with its accessibility and Cayenne’s proximity.
For some years now, the Association RNR Trésor and the Dutch Trésor Foundation, together with the support of WWF-Guyane, participate in a study program on carbon storage of the forest of Kaw-Roura. From 2010 to 2012, six students of Utrecht University in the Netherlands have come to French Guiana to carry out studies on the storage of carbon by Guianese forests and on assessment of the impacts of human activities.
This type of study is a first for the region of the mountain of Kaw-Roura, despite the obvious wealth of the site, which is recognised on a global scale.
In early 2013, RNR Trésor signed an agreement with WWF for the creation of educational tools relating to carbon storage. Thus, the carbon trail had been opened in the reserve, late October 2014.