African Tropical Rainforest Observation Network

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Mounts de Cristal

  • March - April 2013
  • Gabon
elephant at Ivindo National Park (photo: Aida Cuni Sanchez 2013)

Dr Lewis and Dr Cuni Sanchez together with 2 Gabonese technicians re-sample two 1ha plots in the National Park of Mounts de Cristal, one of the wettest and richest (in species) mountains in Africa, not far from Libreville. As expected, it rains every day, but these does not discourage the scientists, who manage to measure more than 1000 trees in these steep hills and find the first record for the northern hemisphere of the understudied Isomacrolobium triplisomere. Apart from the trees, they also take soil samples, from up to 2 m deep.

After Mounts de Cristal, Dr Cuni Sanchez and her team continue to north Gabon to sample 4 more plots: one in the small village of Ekobakoba, one in the National Park of Ivindo and one in the National Park of Minkebe. The bridge at Kango (just after Libreville) is damaged, and everyone has to take the ferry, which only goes with high tide. This is the main bridge of the major road of the country (RN1) with a lot of traffic, so they have to wait 12h to cross. It is difficult to travel overland to the north (and in general in Gabon). Once there, while River Ivindo (photo: Aida Cuni Sanchez 2013)the first two plots seem quite accessible (flat nice rainforest, not too rainy), the last two become a great challenge: after 3 weeks navigating in a small canoe in the Ivindo and its tributaries, cutting trees to make passage for the canoe, spotting not only elephants but several poachers and walking more than 20km in the horrible swamps (full of snakes and doggie diseases), they give up and decide to set up a new plot. Sometimes it’s like that, low water levels: the plots are unreachable at this time of the year. Fortunately, in the new plot in this remote under-researched area, two new tree species might have been discovered.