New Country Maps Pinpoint Places Where Investments in Carbon Can Contribute to Community Livelihoods and Wider Conservation Goals


Mapping where a country’s carbon stocks overlap with areas that are rich in wildlife and important for local peoples’ livelihoods is underway in Asia, Africa and Latin America.


The UN-REDD Programme is a collaborative partnership between the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the UN Development Programme, and UNEP. The Programme supports countries to develop capacity to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and to implement a future REDD+ mechanism in a post-2012 climate regime. Image cout=rtesy of UNEP-WCMC

Mapping where a country’s carbon stocks overlap with areas that are rich in wildlife and important for local peoples’ livelihoods is underway in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The aim is to support international efforts to conserve forests in order to combat climate change. But in a way that delivers other benefits including conservation of economically-important ecosystems linked with water, fertile soils and other crucial services.

Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), governments are negotiating a mechanism to provide payments for Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation plus additional forest "activities" (REDD+), with the aim of halving deforestation by 2020.

It is estimated that currently close to 18% of greenhouse gas emissions—equivalent to around six Gigatonnes (Gt) of C02-- are linked with land use change, mainly through forest loss. In 2004, this amounted to more greenhouse gas emissions than those of the transport sector.

The maps, being compiled by a partnership led by the UN Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), are overlaying the carbon held in the vegetation and soils of a country’s terrestrial ecosystems with other key features.

These include population densities; economic activities such as honey and gum production; the location of existing Protected Areas and biodiversity.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "The aim is to assist governments in setting priorities for carbon investments. In Tanzania for example, several carbon rich parts of the country are in areas where the ranges of almost 70% of the country’s mammal species overlap."

"The mapping also reveals that almost a quarter of Tanzania’s total carbon stocks are in high carbon density areas that are not formally protected. This is the kind of science and analysis that governments from Ecuador to Cambodia are also now looking at to maximize the benefits of investments in REDD+ and accelerate a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy," he added.

UNEP-WCMC’s work is being supported through two streams of funding: the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU), and the UN-REDD Programme.

Maps have been developed for Cambodia; Jiangxi Province in China; Ecuador; Honduras; Nigeria and Tanzania. Under the UN-REDD Programme, UNEP-WCMC is expecting to do further work for the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia.

The launch coincides with the Convention on Biological Diversity’s 10th Conference of the Parties Meeting in Nagoya where progress on the 2010 Biodiversity Target committed to by the world’s governments will be reviewed, and other issues, including biodiversity and climate change, will be considered.

The launch of the reports comes in advance of the UNFCCC meeting in Cancun, Mexico this November, where moving forward on REDD+ will be high on the agenda.

Jon Hutton, Director of UNEP-WCMC, said: "Tropical forests host more than two thirds of the world’s terrestrial species, and provide vital ecosystem services that help to maintain people’s livelihoods. With global biodiversity under unprecedented threat, identifying areas that are high in both carbon and biodiversity offers an opportunity to direct scarce financial resources in ways that create win-win situations for climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation."

Country Highlights from the New Maps


Cambodia’s total land-based carbon stock is nearly 3 Gt. Approximately one third of this is stored in the country’s evergreen forests, such as the biodiverse wet evergreen forests of the Cardamom Mountains rainforests in the Southwest of the country.

Nearly one third of Cambodia’s land-based carbon stock is stored in either Protected Areas (21%) or in Protection Forests (11%). The remaining carbon stocks fall under many different government-allocated land management categories, such as Forest Concessions, Community Fisheries Areas and Economic Land Concessions. These indicate the broad range of stakeholders that are likely to influence how forest carbon will be managed.

Jiangxi Province, China

Jiangxi Province, located in south-eastern China, holds nearly half a Gigatonne of land-based carbon stock. The majority of this carbon (71%) is stored in the Province’s needleleaf and broadleaf forests. Almost half is stored in areas important for endemic and endangered species.

More than 45% of total provincial carbon stock lies in areas which are important for forest products. In Jiangxi Province, this includes products such as bamboo, seedlings, seeds, nuts, bamboo sprouts, and medicinal plants that are important sources of income for local people.

Securing forest carbon can also help to maintain the important contribution that forests make to conserving soil; in 78% of the Province, forest cover reduces erosion potential from "extremely severe" to "negligible." This means that for vast areas of the province carbon management could provide co-benefits in the form of soil conservation and reduced sedimentation.


The Republic of Ecuador holds 5.2 Gt of land-based carbon. The majority of this carbon is located in the rainforests of the Amazon region and the foothills of the Andes. Nationally identified areas of importance for biodiversity conservation hold 15% of the country’s biomass carbon.

Over the next seven years, Ecuador’s Socio Bosque Programme aims to conserve more than 3 million hectares of native forest and other vegetation at sites selected according to criteria related to carbon, biodiversity, other ecosystem services and livelihoods, and will have between 500 000 and 1.5 million beneficiaries. Presently, sites already included in the Socio Bosque Programme contain about 5% of the country’s biomass carbon. This figure could grow to over 30% if all the high priority sites are incorporated into the Programme.


The total, land-based carbon stock of Honduras amounts to almost 2 Gt; the most carbon-rich fifth of the country holds over a third of total carbon stock.

In Honduras, Protected Areas cover 18% of land area and hold 27% of the country’s total carbon stock. Protected Areas contain 48% of the country’s high carbon density area, and 55% of area where high carbon and biodiversity priority overlap.


The Federal Republic of Nigeria holds 7.5 Gt of land-based carbon. The largest areas of high carbon density are found in the southern parts of the country, mostly along the Niger Delta and in the rainforest regions.

Approximately 4% of Nigeria’s total land-based carbon stock is in areas of importance for bird species (Important Bird Areas; IBAs), and more than 8% is found in Nigeria-Cameroon chimpanzee distribution areas. Significantly, about 15% of Nigeria’s carbon stock is inside existing Protected Areas and 86% of the carbon within IBAs is protected.

As Africa’s primary oil producer, Nigeria has allocated a considerable amount of land for the purposes of oil and exploration. Understanding how this land is distributed relative to carbon stocks can help identify where carbon stocks may come under pressure from oil and gas development in the future. Approximately 13% of Nigeria’s total carbon stock (0.97 Gt) is located in land that has been designated for oil and gas exploration.


Tanzania’s total land-based stock of carbon is estimated to be close to 12 Gt. The Kilimanjaro region, at 359 tonnes per hectare, and the Kagera region at close to 200 tonnes per hectare have the highest density of carbon in their vegetation and soils.

Tanzania is rich in biodiversity, with 359 mammal species and 183 species of amphibians. Species range data indicate that many areas potentially rich in mammals and amphibians coincide with areas of high carbon density.

The country’s Protected Areas network stores around a third of national carbon stocks. However, nearly a quarter of the country’s carbon is found in areas of high carbon density that are currently outside formal Protected Areas.

One source of pressure on carbon stocks in Tanzania is human-caused fires. In 2006-2007 such fires may have affected 180 Mt of biomass carbon. Of this amount, 30% occurred in high carbon density areas, which are most likely to suffer long-term fire damage to carbon stocks.


All reports are publicly available and downloadable on the following sites:

The carbon and co-benefits mapping work being carried out by UNEP-WCMC and country partners has kindly been made possible through contributions from two funding sources: the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety and the UN-REDD Programme (/).

The 10th Conference of the Parties to the UNEP-linked Convention on Biological Diversity

The sixteenth Conference of the Parties (COP) and the sixth Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol

REDD+ has been proposed as a mechanism under the UN Framwork Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The aim of REDD+ is to contribute to climate change mitigation by maintaining and enhancing forest carbon stocks in developing countries. REDD+ encompasses the following activities: Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and from forest Degradation (REDD); and conservation of forest carbon stocks, sustainable management of forests, and enhancement of forest carbon stocks (+).

This news is from UNEP-WCMC, 18 October 2010.

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