This project is a collaboration with The Nature Conservancy's Great Rivers Partnership: ecosystem health assessment, remediation of impacts, capacity building and long-term sustainable development.
The Gabon-Oregon Center is teaming up with The Nature Conservancy-Africa, ANPN (Agence National des Parcs Nationaux) and the Ministère des Eaux et Forêts in Gabon to examine the health of the Ogooué River Basin, understood as a complex and holistic ecosystem. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has designated the Ogooué as one of its eight worldwide Great Rivers. The mission of TNC’s Great Rivers Partnership is to bring together diverse partners and best science to expand options for achieving the sustainable management and development of the world's Great Rivers and their basins. The program seeks shared solutions to common land- and water-use dilemmas, recognizing the inescapable linkages that connect our economy, well-being and ecosystem sustainability. In Gabon, the ecological status of the Ogooué river basin will be examined, to develop baseline indicators of riparian health, to prepare for impacts of increased tourism, road construction, logging and mining in the river basin, and to suggest means of alleviation and remediation of impacts.
This project builds on the work of The Nature Conservancy-Africa and faculty in the departments of Geography, Environmental Science and Management, Fisheries and Forestry at Portland State University, Oregon State University and the University of Oregon. Faculty will collaborate on various aspects of the project in order to address the diverse environmental concerns present in this varied and large river basin. Faculty will also bring extensive experience and expertise in forestry, community-based conservation, policy development and natural resource management, as well as freshwater resources and hydrology. The Nature Conservancy will utilize its expertise in site analysis and impact assessment for dam locations on the Ogooué, among other projects, and produce reports to determine and present work that needs to be done based on available data.
The major objectives of this project are addressing sedimentation from extractive industries, improving freshwater protected area management for long-term benefits, fulfilling sustainable development goals, and building scientific and management capacity for integrated river basin management (IRBM) in Gabon. This project advances the Gabon-Oregon Center’s mission to build human capital in the country to ensure the program's long-term sustainability and address the country's development goals. We will work to meet Gabon's energy and industrial goals while maintaining a healthy freshwater ecosystem in the Ogooué River Basin for long-term ecological benefits for the local population and natural resource preservation. The program will engage local communities to involve them in the decision-making process and to develop valuable natural resource management skills. The program also seeks to include the diverse and numerous stakeholders in the planning, implementation and management stages of development, such as various branches of the Gabonese government, private corporations operating in the basin, and Gabonese universities, researchers and students as part of a holistic, capacity-building process.
In Fall 2014, a team of fisheries scientists and experts from the U.S., including Oregon State University's Fisheries Curator and ichthyologist Dr. Brian Sidlauskas, traveled to Gabon and organized the first freshwater fish species survey in the country in 150 years in partnership with Gabonese scientists, The Nature Conservancy staff, and other American partners. The team collected fish in the Lastoursville/Moyen Ogooué region and carefully analyzed each specimen. The team learned a great deal about freshwater fish in Gabon, including the discovery of two new fish species.
In April and May 2015, the Gabon-Oregon Center and Oregon State University hosted a Gabonese fish scientist, Dr. Jean-Hervé Mve Beh, in Eugene and Corvallis. Dr. Mve Beh worked closely with his research partner Dr. Brian Sidlauskas in a Corvallis lab, identifying additional fish collected in fall of 2014.
Dr. Jean Hervé Mve Beh returned to Oregon in August and September 2016, and the team continued their work identifying fish specimens collected in Gabon. The scientists assembled an identification guide of the region’s fishes with high quality photos that will be included in their scientific journal article about the biodiversity of Ramsar’s site. They also began work on a new website documenting Gabon’s fishes, PoissonGabon. The members of the research team presented the results of their work in Blue River, Oregon at the Gilbert Ichthyological Society.
As of 2017, all specimen identification from this trip were finalized and documented into a large matrix entailing the presence or absence of each species in Rapides de Mboungou Badouma and Doumé Ramsar collection sites.
The team has gained continued support from The Nature Conservancy and the Gabon-Oregon Center for two follow-up expeditions in order to assess the impact of planned dams in Western Gabon on fish diversity. The next expedition took place in April and May of 2017, and 5,000 additional fish specimens were identified and used to examine potential impacts on local fish communities.
The researchers gathered in Oregon in the summer of 2017 to identify and catalogue fish specimens from their most recent expedition.
To access The Nature Conservancy's exciting photo story that illustrates the research trip in Gabon, visit www.nature.org.