Laying some 90km west of Kisangani, the research station of Yangambi hosts an abundance of knowledge and information. One of its winning aces is the herbarium (a systemically arranged collection of dried plants), which contains 150,000 specimens and is one of the biggest and most comprehensive of its kind in Africa. A total of 6,500 different types of plants translate as 65% of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s known flora. The samples in the xylotheque (wood library) alone extend to around 1,250 specimens.
Yangambi is not just about the past life of flora and fauna though; living plants also form part of its ecosystem. A botanical garden stretches for some 11 hectares, and in the arboretum almost all the Congolese tree species that are significant in terms of their economic value, are set out on individual plots. Elsewhere, there are 11 assorted woodlands, each planted in a different way. And today, the growth that has been under way since planting in the 1960s provides ideal tools to study and understand the impact of timber production and CO2 levels in controlled conditions. Yangambi is also home to a nature reserve of approximately 2,200 hectares, which runs alongside the lands of the ‘Man and Biosphere’ reserve, wherein 80% of the 4,000 sq km surface area is classified as virgin tropical rainforest.
The buildings and the collections of the herbarium are in quite good condition. In 2009 the herbarium was treated with a chemical pesticide, and in 2011 an additional thermal disinfection is planned. Other developments have taken place within the framework of the ‘Global Plant Initiative’, whereby the funding of the Mellon Foundation and collaborative efforts of the National Botanical Gardens of Belgium have seen a high-resolution scanner installed. Meanwhile, with the support of the REAFOR programme (Relance de la Recherche Agricole et Forestière) a guesthouse has been renovated, solar panels were added as a source of renewable energy and essentials such as microscopes and binoculars were made available.
The research centre has also been investing in its personnel in a number of ways. Around 20 collaborators of the herbarium have received training in the professional mounting of dried plants; four people have followed a course in the digitalisation of the herbarium specimens; and three people have been instructed in the management skills necessary to maintain the herbarium. Furthermore, one collaborator participated in the Congo 2010 expedition and here learnt how to collect plant material and work with GPS-systems.
Thanks to the various rehabilitation activities, the herbarium of Yangambi can once again play a role on an international scientific level. The mix of competent and enthusiastic collaborators, a professional infrastructure, and the herbarium and living plants themselves, are making Yangambi a unique and precious scientific instrument to study Congolese plant diversity, and importantly, to protect it and learn how to make use of it in a sustainable way.
Herbarium code: YBI
Herbier de Yangambi
Département de Botanique
Centre de Recherches
Institut National pour l'Étude et la Recherche Agronomique
Yangambi via Kisangani
Democratic Republic of Congo
Elasi Ramazani Kitima
+243 993 720 148