Congo basin: From carbon to fishes

In this project, we aim to link terrestrial inputs, primary producers (algae and aquatic macrophytes), invertebrate and fish biodiversity to ecosystem dynamics and functioning in the Congo river. The project will address the following four key questions:

1. How diverse are fish communities in two sub-catchments of the Congo River (Lubilu and Lomami) in terms of biodiversity and functional/trophic diversity?
2. Which factors can be identified in regulating this diversity? In order to detect underlying mechanisms, we will provide comprehensive measurements of possible regulating factors, including aquatic primary producer abundance, diversity and production, physico-chemical conditions, nutrient status (linked to aquatic productivity), and organic matter availability and origin. These data will not only be used to support the work on higher trophic levels, but will also be analyzed in the context of furthering our understanding on carbon and nutrient cycling in the Congo basin.
3. To which extent do fish communities in these river systems depend on autochtonous (aquatic) primary production or on lateral allochtonous (terrestrial) production? Stable isotope analyses of representative fish communities and potential food sources will be used to determine the degree of allochtonous support and to describe the trophic structure.
4. What is the importance of seasonal flood events on global ecosystem functioning? In order to better capture seasonal variability and to have information on carbon sources and basal food sources signatures preceding the larger-scale sampling campaigns, regular monitoring for a selected number of parameters and involving local scientists will be set up at one site on both subcatchments studied.

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Université de Liège (Belgium), University of Leuven (Belgium), National Botanical Garden of Belgium, Royal Museum for Central Africa (Belgium), University of Kisangani (DR Congo)
Financier(s) and budget: BELSPO (Belgian Science Policy)
Location(s) and countrie(s) studied: Lubilu river( Yangambi MAB)and Lower Lomami river, DR Congo

Keywords: REDD+, fish communities,

Contactperson: dr. Erik Verheyen

Institution: Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences

Project Description

Midterm Report