Congo Basin: Unraveling the past to predict the future

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Congolese researchers Chadrack Kafuti and Nestor Luambua know what it takes to get into the least-known tropical forest in the world. Inhaling the warm and steamy air, plastic boots enable them to cross streams and fend-off the highly venomous green mamba snake; a wool bonnet prevents swarms of flies from forcing their way into ears, eyes and mouth; and a hard work helmet protects them from tumbling ripe fruits and rotten branches. And those are only the minor inconveniences. Until recently, scientists studying trees in the Congo Basin had to pack up their wood samples and take them to Europe or further afield for analysis. “Imagine having to take 30 tree trunk slices of 10 kg each all the way from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Belgium,” says Kafuti, a 27-year-old PhD candidate with Ghent University and the Royal Museum for Central Afica (RMCA) in Belgium.

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