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Trade-offs in linking adaptation and mitigation in the forests of the Congo Basin

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Abstract

Recent discussions on forests and climate change have highlighted the potential for conservation of tropical forests to contribute synergistically to both mitigation (reducing emissions of greenhouse gases) and adaptation (increasing capacity to cope with changing climate conditions). Key mechanisms through which adaptive advantages might be gained include the potential for forest resources to support livelihoods in the context of climatic strains on agriculture and the protection that intact forest ecosystems might provide against landslides, flash floods and other hazards related to extreme weather. This paper presents findings from field research with forest communities in three areas of the Congo Basin in Central Africa, in which the adaptive role and potential of forests in these respects is critically analysed. The investigation was carried out through a combination of structured and semi-structured qualitative techniques within six villages in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Rwanda. The findings of the research highlight the need to understand both the limits of synergy, and the constraints and trade-offs for rural livelihoods that may be associated with a forest conservation agenda driven by the additional impetus of carbon sequestration. The search for synergy may be conceptually laudable, but if forest management actions do not take account of on-the-ground contexts of constraints and social trade-offs then the result of those actions risks undermining wider livelihood resilience.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)851–863
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Volume17
Issue number3
Early online date21 Nov 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017
Peer-reviewedYes

Keywords

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  • Adaptation, Forests, Climate change, Trade-offs, Livelihoods, Congo Basin

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© The Author(s) 2016 Open Access: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

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