Scientists are uncovering a massive climate threat beneath the Congo rainforest

Field research on a recent expedition suggests the store of carbon beneath the Congo basin rainforest could go even deeper than previously thought

Unearthed accompanied scientists to the heart of the Congo Basin rainforest as they learned more about a remote part of the world that could have massive implications for the planet. Video: Georgie Johnson

Back in January, in an otherwise unremarkable section of the world’s second largest rainforest, a group of scientists made a startling discovery.

In the remote Congo swamps, the UK-Congolese team found a massive area of tropical peatland.

The area of carbon-rich soil, believed to be the largest in the world, is thought to contain as much as three years of global CO2 emissions.

Researchers, including Professor Simon Lewis and Dr Greta Dargie from the University of Leeds, spent three years mapping a 145,500 sq km2 area in the jungle – that’s bigger than England, collecting samples and examining satellite data before their study was published in the journal Nature.

It was estimated that the swampland contained as much as 30 billion tonnes of carbon. But samples taken on a new expedition to the area suggest that there could be even more.

These findings could have major implications for the planet.

The Congo Basin has been targetted by industrial loggers and palm oil companies in recent years.  The scientists who made the discovery warn that significant development in the area could cause some of the stored carbon to be released, leading to an “environmental disaster”.