World Wetlands Day 2009 -- Gabon

30/01/2009



Gabon names three new sites for World Wetlands Day

The government of Gabon has completed the paperwork for the designation of three new sites for the List of Wetlands of International Importance, all effective as of World Wetlands Day, 2 February 2009. They are large and very rich wetlands that bring Gabon's total amount of Ramsar coverage to nine sites over 2,818,469 hectares. WWF International's Freshwater Programme and WWF - Gabon provided financial and technical support for this project, and all are to be congratulated heartily. Ramsar's Cynthia Kibata has prepared these brief site descriptions for the Annotated Ramsar List:

Rapides de Mboungou Badouma et de Doumé. 02/02/09; Haut Ogooué, l’Ogooué Lolo; 59,500 ha; 01°04’S 013°10’E. A system of permanent and intermittent rivers and permanent marshes from the confluence of the Mpassa and Léyou Rivers, with 140km of rapids that form part of a large hydrographical network, acting as a spillway for several rivers. This site is rich in biological diversity, supporting a vast array of fauna and flora. The existence of certain vegetation at the site is linked to the presence of certain animals, i.e., as a source of food, refuge, and habitat – it has been found, however, that these same species, elephants, monkeys, tilapia, and carps, are severely challenged by the threats facing the site from over-exploitation of forest resources, pollution of the waters by effluents from the surrounding towns, and mining activities for manganese and uranium. While there is currently no management plan specific to the site, it is protected by a number of national environmental laws and regulations. Ramsar site no. 1853. Most recent RIS information: 2009.

Site Ramsar Bas Ogooué. 02/02/09; Moyen Ogooué, l’Ogooué Maritime; 862,700 ha; 00°39’S 010°01’E. Comprises a vast alluvial plain (over 70km), marshes, lakes and rivers in the west of the country. Luxuriant vegetation covers half of the site in dense forest, riparian marshes, savanna, etc. It supports several threatened species such as gorilla, chimpanzee, elephant, buffalo, mandrills, the African manatee and the hippopotamus. Other noteworthy species include various waterbirds such as Herons, the African cormorant, and falcons, as well as various fish populations like sharks, tilapia, carp, and introduced species such as Heterotis niloticus. As the site is rich in natural resources, it is commonly used by those who inhabit it as well as populations from the surrounding areas and large towns for various purposes, some of which are uncontrolled and lead to detrimental effects on the ecosystem – these range from exploitation of the forest for timber and other forest products, agriculture, hunting, fishing, tourism, livestock rearing, transport of people and goods. There is no specific management plan but there are regulations at the local level that aim to protect and maintain the natural resources and ecosystems. Research activities as well as education and awareness raising projects are carried out by the Ministries of Water and Forests and of Fisheries in collaboration with the WWF. Ramsar Site no. 1851. Most recent RIS information: 2009.

Site Ramsar Chutes et Rapides sur Ivindo. 02/02/09; Ogooué Ivindo; 132,500 ha; 00°13’N 012°24’E. Within National Park. A vast peneplain with valleys in the centre that maintain a dense hydrographic network, with representative example of the waterfalls and rapids of Gabon, rivers (permanent and irregular), and marshes. Three out of five endemic waterbirds found in Cameroon and Gabon have been recorded in the site (e.g., Batis minima). A wide variety of flora is also sustained here, such as Velvet Tamarind, African Satinwood, and African Greenheart. Several populations of fish found at the site have adapted to the specific environmental conditions that occur as a result of the heavy currents e.g. Nannocharax sp., Labeo spp., Atopochilus savorgnani, Doumea typica. The site is utilized by local communities as well as the inhabitants of the urban centres of Makokou, Booué and Ovan; this leads to overexploitation of the forest resources, over-fishing and detrimental effects from pollution from the towns as well as through iron mining activities occurring at Belinga. There is currently a management plan in preparation for Ivindo National Park, which will cover the surrounding areas and include this site. Ramsar Site no: 1852. Most recent RIS information: 2009.

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