The aim of this project is to get baseline reference data on the C balance and biodiversity in pristine and intervened dense tropical forests of the Congo Basin and to increase our understanding in the relationship between both variables as a function of forest management. The strategic choice of the tropical forests of D.R. Congo as a study area is inspired by five main reasons: (1) REDD+ projects are active and also REDD+ on a national level has been initiated as D.R. Congo is one of first nine pilot UN-REDD countries, UN-REDD being the UN programme and partnership between FAO, UNEP and UNDP, dealing with support to countries to make part of REDD+; (2) there are large uncertainties associated to impact of forest degradation on the global C budget as a result of the lack of information on current and future C stocks and fluxes in forests of D.R. Congo; (3) Central African tropical dense rainforest are considered an unexplored and endangered biodiversity hotspot; (4) enhanced forest degradation of non-protected areas in D.R. Congo will almost certainly take place in the future at high rates; and (5) the support of the local stakeholders for future REDD+ initiatives in Central African forests will ultimately depend on its associated impacts on biodiversity and associated ecosystem functions. In order to achieve our objectives, we build a scientific consortium that is composed of 8 partners having complementary research expertise (remote sensing, biogeochemistry, biodiversity biologists, landscape ecology, forestry, etc.) and a common interest in African tropical forest ecology and nature conservation. All partners have established scientific contacts and ongoing collaborations in D.R. Congo.
The methodology of our project is based on two project axes. As a first axis, we will measure aboveground and belowground soil carbon stocks and biodiversity indices along a forest productivity gradient (ca. 15 sites) in the Yangambi Man and Biosphere reserve (Y-MaB) and investigate direct effect relationships between forest carbon stocks and biodiversity along this productivity gradient (PG-CB). The different sites located along a forest productivity gradient will be tentatively selected using remote sensing techniques and validated on the ground. Carbon stocks will be investigated in the forest core and edges zones. We will bring forward a set of biodiversity indices related to lichens, fungi, higher vascular plants, ants and termites, spiders, flies, bees, arthropods and rodents. As a second project axis, we will develop a long-term carbon-biodiversity observation site via the installation of a permanent eddy covariance flux tower in the Y-MaB reserve combined with a long-term biodiversity monitoring (LT-CB). This will allow us to start the first long-term measurement site of net C fluxes in the Congo forest basin, and to assess dynamic co-associations between C balance and biodiversity as a function of time. The LT-CB will be an integral part of the PG-CB sites. These two project axes will be brought into practice using a set of six complementary work packages (study site selection, baseline carbon inventory, flux tower installation and operation, biodiversity monitoring, integration of carbon and biodiversity monitoring, and conclusions and suggestions for sustainable policies).
Ghent University (Belgium), Royal Museum for Central Africa (Belgium), Université Libre de Bruxelles (Belgium), Université Catholique de Louvain (Belgium), National Botanic Garden of Belgium, Royal Belgian Institute for Natural Sciences, University of Antwerp (Belgium), Congolese partners via subcontracting (UNIKIS + INERA Yangambi, WCS - EPULU).
Financier(s) and budget: BELSPO (Belgian Science Policy)
Location(s) and countrie(s) studied: Yangambi MAB, DR Congo
Keywords: Congo Basin tropical forest, REDD+, Carbon dynamics, flux towers, biodiversity, plant traits
Contactperson: prof. dr. Pascal Boeckx
Institution: Ghent University