Inventaire rapide des zones humides représentatives en République Démocratique du Congo

Thieme, M., Shapiro, A., Colom, A., Schliewen, U., Sindorf, N. and Kamdem Toham, A.

Record Number:
In 2002, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo committed to increase its protected area coverage to 15% from just over 8%. WWF, RAMSAR, OSFAC and other partners supported the effort by convening an expert workshop in Kinshasa, DRC in November 2007, to undertake a country wide biodiversity assessment, including a rapid inventory and prioritization of the biodiversity value of the wetlands of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Several products were developed prior to the workshop to facilitate the work of the experts. These were: (1) a map classifying small sub‐basins in DRC by the predominant aquatic habitat types and (2) a map of human use/suitability. The aquatic habitat or ecosystem map was used as a basis for ensuring representation of all habitat types across the country and the suitability map provided a measure of the level of human impact. For this assessment we used MARXAN, a site selection program, to suggest possible areas for prioritization based on an algorithm to maximize suitability and meet habitat representation goals. The inputs to MARXAN were the terrestrial and freshwater ecosystem classifications and the human use/suitability layer. We set goals of representing at least 20% of every habitat type (higher goals were set for very rare habitat types). MARXAN then analyzed the distribution of these habitat types across DRC and chose those that are likely to be the least impacted (have the lowest human use/suitability score). MARXAN was run 500 times. Those areas that are continually chosen are considered more “irreplaceable”, ie, they are necessary for inclusion in the set of priority areas if all habitat types are to be represented. The results of the MARXAN analysis were brought to the expert workshop as one input for the working group discussions in which priority areas were identified. Additionally, the results of the gap analysis for freshwater ecosystem types were used to make certain that under‐represented types were included in wetland priority areas. The wetlands working group used these data as a basis for their discussions. The group went through a facilitated process in which they identified those wetlands with known biological values across the country. For each wetland area, experts evaluated its biodiversity value in terms of species richness, species endemism, and ecological and evolutionary phenomena. The knowledge base of the workshop attendees was largely related to freshwater fish species and their distributions. Thus, knowledge on fish species was the largest contributor to area selection; however, there was one bird expert and several of the participants had knowledge of areas of importance for aquatic invertebrates. Species richness is the number of individual species known to occur in an area and endemism is the number of species found only within that area. The ecological and evolutionary phenomena that were considered are the following: key staging, feeding, breeding areas for migratory waterbird species; areas/sites that regularly support >20,000 waterbirds; highly significant spawning ground/nursery area/migratory route for non‐avian wetland dependent species; extraordinary radiations or adaptations; intact biotas; refuge areas; many relict or primitive taxa; and generic or family level endemism. In total, the freshwater experts highlighted 30 wetland priority areas, covering parts of every province of DRC. These areas cover a large portion of DRC and meet or exceed the representation goal of 20% for nearly every aquatic ecosystem type. Each priority area include a description with information on the biological diversity of the area, as well as data responding to the following fields of The Information Sheet on Ramsar Wetlands (RIS): Wetland Type (from the Ramsar "Classification System for Wetland Type"; number 19) Identification of uses, social and cultural value of the sites (number 23) Land tenure in the sites (number 24) Current land use (number 25) Adverse factors (past, present or potential) threatening the sites (number 26) Subsequent to the workshop a desk study of available information on the threats to key wetland areas, as well as their socio‐economic importance was conducted in order to provide more detailed information on each of the areas. The desk study compiled information from diverse historic and contemporary documents as well as from direct observation (Bas Congo, Equateur and Orientale provinces). Most scientific articles and complementary gray literature were accessed electronically, whereas available print documents were consulted in Kinshasa. Available data are presented by area, following the Ramsar format.
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