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The value of Congo’s forest

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The value of Congo’s forest
Protecting the Bemba forest in the Nouabalé-Ndoki will contribute to biodiversity conservation in the Congo Basin. Image credit: Thomas Nicolon

The value of Congo’s forest

Protecting the Bemba forest in the Nouabalé-Ndoki will contribute to biodiversity conservation in the Congo Basin.

A recent study, published in the scientific journal “Plant Ecology and Evolution,” sheds valuable insights into forest stands of Gilbertiodendron dewevrei (G. dewevrei) in the Sangha Trinational region in the Republic of Congo.

dewevrei, known as “Bemba” or “Limbali” forest by Indigenous Peoples and local communities, is a tree species endemic to the Congo Basin that is unusual in forming large stands where it is almost the only species present.

The study focuses on the comparative analysis of the structure and composition of this G. dewevrei forest type compared to adjacent forest types.

Using data from plot inventories and herbarium specimens, researchers evaluated several parameters, including stem density, basal area, aboveground biomass, stem size class distribution, species diversity, and species composition.

The study results revealed significant differences between the two forest types. The G. dewevrei forest has a lower stem density but a higher proportion of large trees, suggesting higher carbon stocks.

A distinct ecosystem (The value of Congo’s forest)

Consequently, the findings suggest that the G. dewevrei forest should be considered separately in conservation planning and carbon stock calculations. “This study underscores the importance of recognising the G. dewevrei forest as a distinct ecosystem in our conservation and natural resource management efforts.

By gaining a deeper understanding of the characteristics of this forest, we can enhance our ability to protect it and contribute to biodiversity conservation,” said Richard Malonga, Country Director of WCS Congo.

Led by Ellen Heimpel, and David J. Harris, this research was conducted by the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh in collaboration with WCS Congo, with support from the Ministry of Forestry Economy, the Ministry of Scientific Research and Technological Innovation of the Government of Congo, as well as the Congolese Agency for Wildlife and Protected Areas (ACFAP).

“In this paper, we show that Gilbertiodendron dewevrei forest is distinct from mixed forest in both species composition and in forest structure. It contains a unique community of plant life and may store more carbon than other mixed species forest. We believe that this is an important forest type to conserve,” noted Ellen Heimpel, a PhD student at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

Dr David J. Harris added, “Limbali forest is widespread across the northern Republic of Congo, southern Central African Republic, parts of Cameroon and Democratic Republic Congo (DRC). The more we understand about this forest, the better we can make sure its value can be reflected in policies on forests in the Congo Basin.”

Future research steps will include a deeper exploration of the factors influencing species associations within the G. dewevrei forest, as well as comparisons with other regions where this species is present. Mapping the extent of G. dewevrei forests in the Congo Basin is also a priority for effective conservation planning.

Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park is the best remaining example of an intact ecosystem in the Congo Basin. It covers more than 4,100 km2 of lowland rainforest and is home to critical populations of endangered mammals, such as forest elephants, lowland gorillas and chimpanzees. Nouabalé-Ndoki was listed as the Congolese sector of the Sangha Trinational, as a World Heritage Site in 2012, and as a Key Biodiversity area in 2024

For more than 30 years, WCS has played a major role in the conservation of wildlife and wild places in the Republic of Congo, where it has contributed to the creation, expansion and management of three of the five national parks. WCS works closely with the government, national stakeholders and local communities to protect Congo’s rich ecosystems.

The value of Congo’s forest

The value of Congo’s forest
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