Africa - Carbon source or sink

Posted in June 2009

New research in the Department of Geography at the University of Leicester aims at reducing uncertainties in the prediction of the African ecosystem.

According to doctoral research by Darren Ghent, much emphasis concerning climate change has been placed on human caused emissions of greenhouse gases, such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation.

However less attention has been given to the natural flux of ecosystem carbon and how this changes from one year to the next.

This natural variability is highly influenced by El Niño, a complex weather phenomenon occurring every 4-12 years that causes a change in the distribution of temperature and rainfall patterns in the tropics.

Darren Ghent will be presenting his research at the Festival of Postgraduate Research which is taking place on Thursday 25th June in the Belvoir Suite, Charles Wilson Building at the University of Leicester between 11.30am and 1pm.

Darren Ghent said: “It is important to ensure uncertainties in the science are minimised in order to accurately quantify the effects and to inspire confidence in the predictions of future climate change.

“Africa is the least studied continent and is likely to experience the greatest impacts from climate change. Unfortunately climate scenarios for the continent remain highly uncertain.

“Although fossil fuel emissions for Africa are relatively low on a global perspective, as the world warms many models suggest more frequent and intense El Niño events will result, suggesting more emphasis should be placed on African emission sources and therefore on potential mitigation and adaptation projects.

“Results from climate models drive political and economic decision making regarding environmental policy. Informed decisions can only be made if model uncertainty is minimised through new scientific understanding of the climate system.”

This research is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council and the results have the potential to change the way we view Africa in the global carbon cycle.

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