The University of Ghent participated in a study that shows that deforestation has even more of an impact on climate change than previously thought. When the trees are cut down, carbon that has been stored in the soil for more than 1,500 years is released. The released carbon becomes carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, enhancing the greenhouse gas effect, says Ghent University.

Researcher Marijn Bauters explains that “deforestation has a doubly negative effect on climate change. Firstly, because the tree that converts CO2 into oxygen disappears. Secondly, because the ground releases carbon when land use changes from forest to agriculture.”  The soil becomes unstable from deforestation releasing the carbon into water which turns it into CO2.

The study was conducted in 19 sites in the east of Congo where there has been a population boom. This demographic increase caused more deforestation to take place to make more space for agricultural land. Bauters acknowledges the agricultural needs but also advocated for conserving forests as they help minimize CO2 in the atmosphere that is heating the planet. He suggests that “buffer zones and terraces can be installed in areas where the forest needs to make way for farmland,” according to the Brussels Times.