Ecosystems of the Green Heart of Africa

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Mist hanging over the tropical rainforest after heavy rainfall. Gamba Nature Reserve, Gabon.
© WWF-Canon / Michel GUNTHER

A bird’s eye view of the Congo River Basin

Flying southeast above Cameroon’s Atlantic coastal forests, to the west of the Congo River Basin, the land below unfolds in a bewildering array of patterns and colours.

Crossing into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), montane forests slowly give way to lowland forests, then open clearing, broken by the sight of the Congo River as it makes its way towards the coast. We continue our course south, over the forest-savanna mosaic. A sharp turn northeast brings us back in the direction of the ‘Green Abyss’, the dense rainforests of the central Congo River Basin.

As we get closer to the centre of the basin, we can see the Congo River meandering through vast swampy areas. This is the wet season, and the areas surrounding the river are flooded.

Keeping a steady course to the east, the land begins to rise as we approach the montane forests of the Albertine Rift in the eastern DRC, one of Africa's most important sites for biodiversity. We see ice fields, on top of the Ruwenzori Mountains, active volcanoes, hot springs, bamboo, alpine vegetation, montane forest, savanna and the lowland forests of the Semuliki Valley.1

What you won’t see with the naked eye

But there’s one thing we can’t see from above, and that’s how dependent on each other these ecosystems are. The tiny elephant below, the vast green expanse of rainforest and the swamps all function in a closed circle. Lose one element, and all remaining ones will be affected, some imperceptibly, others significantly.

Find out more about the major ecosystems of the Congo River Basin:
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1 Wildlife Conservation Society. Albertine Rift Programme: What is the rift?  Accessed 08/11/05.
 / ©: WWF
Terrestrial ecoegions of Central Africa
© WWF

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