Mozambican Woodlands Found to Store Double the Carbon, Promising Huge Climate Benefits

A new study uncovers that Mozambican miombo woodlands store 1.5 to 2.2 times more carbon than previously thought. This revelation emphasizes the critical role these forests play in climate change mitigation and urges immediate actions to protect and restore them.

Mozambican miombo woodlands hold immense untapped potential in the fight against climate change. A recent study, published in Nature Communications Earth & Environment, has revealed that these crucial ecosystems store between 1.5 to 2.2 times more carbon than earlier estimates suggested.

Led by carbon data provider Sylvera, the research was conducted by an international team, including scientists from University College London (UCL) and University of Maryland (UMD). Employing advanced 3D laser scanning technologies from ground, drone and helicopter perspectives, the team meticulously measured more than 8 million trees over 500 square kilometers in and around Gilé National Park, Mozambique.

“Using these 3D laser scanning measurements, we’re able to significantly improve the accuracy of our estimates of the biomass and carbon stored in these critical and dynamic miombo woodlands,” the study’s co-author Mathias (Mat) Disney, a professor of remote sensing in UCL’s Department of Geography, said in a news release. “The fact that these new results are so much greater than previous estimates demonstrates that these ecosystems are even more important than we thought and highlights why we need to protect them, now more than ever.”

This research indicates that conventional methods, which often rely on linking simple-to-measure tree variables to carbon content, have underestimated the carbon storage capacity of large trees prevalent in the miombo woodlands. This study marks the first occasion that region-scale carbon estimates have been calculated independent of these traditional techniques, using multi-scale lidar data.

The findings have significant implications not only for Mozambique but for miombo woodlands across the entirety of Sub-Saharan Africa. When extrapolated, the study suggests that these woodlands might store up to 13.6 billion tonnes more carbon than previously recognized — an amount nearly equivalent to the total annual atmospheric carbon increase.

“Mapping biomass from space is always limited by the availability of high-quality calibration and validation data. This research demonstrates the state of the art in multi-scale lidar methods for linking trees to satellites,” co-author Laura Duncanson, an assistant professor at UMD and a member of the NASA GEDI science team, said in the news release.

Allister Furey, CEO and co-founder of Sylvera, emphasized the importance of this research for climate finance.

“Ultimately, fighting climate change is a finance issue. We need more money flowing to known solutions, predominantly our natural carbon sinks,” he said.

This study underscores the urgent need to prioritize the protection and restoration of miombo woodlands. Given their environmental significance — directly supporting millions of livelihoods, regulating climate and water resources, and providing essential habitats — the findings advocate for enhanced conservation efforts. They also bolster investor confidence in funding natural climate solutions by providing more reliable carbon stock measurements.

As the world grapples with unprecedented climatic challenges, the protection of Mozambique’s miombo woodlands offers a promising natural strategy to mitigate adverse impacts. This groundbreaking work led by Sylvera, alongside academic and local partners, brings renewed attention to a long-underestimated natural ally in our quest for a sustainable future.