Country Profiles

Congo - Country Profile

Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Congo’s landscape is covered to a large extent by the second largest rainforest in the world and a great hydrological network, housing a rich diversity of flora and fauna species. This richness is however poorly known and biodiversity in general is being degraded through deforestation from logging concessions, land clearing from agricultural expansion, and bushmeat hunting for commercial purposes. Hence the extent of some forests type is fragile and slowly being replaced by savannahs following increasing human activity. High and increasing demographic pressure is especially visible around the cities, where many plant species have become rare or have almost disappeared following oversampling of their organs or destruction of their habitat. In addition, inland and marine water resources are also at a depleted state subsequent to pollution from agriculture, unsustainable fishing practices and the growing presence of invasive alien species.

Congo possesses great terrestrial ecosystems, with various forest types representing 65% of the territory. The three major forests (Mayombe forest - 1,503,172 ha; Chaillu forest - 4,386,633 ha; North-Congo forest - 15,991,604 ha) account for a total of 22,471,271 ha. In 1985, the FAO evaluated that 25,000 ha to 35,000 ha are cleared annually for agricultural purposes. As well, since 1940, forests in the south are being overexploited without any management planning, while forests in the north are being exploited on the basis of a rotational system and selective exploitation. Hence northern forests are less affected, with resources in a better state.

An increase in the number of logging roads resulting from forest exploitation has opened up pathways, making wildlife more accessible to poachers and those involved in the lucrative business of bushmeat and hunting trophies (ivory tusks and skins of certain protected species). Thus rarefaction of wildlife is visible and threatens already endangered species, such as the world's largest population of western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla), listed on the IUCN Red List as critically endangered, elephants, marshbucks (Tragelaphus spekii) and bongos. In fact, waterbucks and lycaons are species that have already disappeared. The savannah grasslands occupy the other 35% (12 million ha) of the territory with a portion totalling 300,000 ha (1% of the total area) lying in the littoral zone. This wide grassland surface offers enormous potential for livestock breeding. Yet, very little farming is practiced. The hydrographical network (225,000 km2) is also of great importance. It is organized around two main watersheds: the Congo River Basin (4 million km2) and the Kouilou-Niari River Basin (60 000 km2) providing various ecosystems (fresh and marine water, mangrove and coastal forests, wetlands, beaches, etc.) and rich biodiversity. These ecosystems are showing increasing signs of degradation thus endangering many aquatic species. Snakes, lizards and turtles are however abundant despite the environmental variability linked to anthropogenic actions.

Assessment of status and trends remains difficult since Congo’s biodiversity remains poorly known. Since 1970, approximately 9,917,236 ha of forest have been inventoried. Despite these efforts, many areas remain unknown and inventories are still insignificant. Information regarding non-timber products biology, regeneration, and low impact exploitation methods is especially weak. Also, only 4 family groups have been described for flora estimated at 6500 species (ACCT 1985), and description of fauna groups such as scorpions, spiders, marine fishes and microorganisms is needed. On the other hand, herpetology knowledge about snakes improved, as did knowledge on medicinal plants and timber forest territories. Livelihoods of the majority of Congolese are highly dependent on ecosystems and their biodiversity. Besides providing food (wild plants, animals, Lepidoptera larvae, etc.) and medicine, forests products ensure 98% of energy fuel for the households of four of the largest cities of Congo. Firewood production has fluctuated between 785,000 and 916,000 cubic meters from 1992 to 1998, while coal production fluctuated between 80,000 and 120,000 tons. The forest industry occupies second place in the Congolese economy and provides many job opportunities. Forestry inventories identified more than 150 timber species, yet national production is essentially sourced from 7 species only. Thus, this sector offers real potential for growth and diversification due to the importance of natural reserves, potential timber wood estimated at 567 million m3 in volume (all species combined), national reforestation policy and the development of fast-growing species plantations (Eucalyptus 40,000 ha, Pinus 6,500 ha, etc.). The country has 10 million ha of cultivable land. Yet, only 0.2 million ha have been enhanced. Cassava is the most widely cultivated species (60%) while groundnut covers just 10% of cultivated land.

Agricultural production is self-consumed (98% of the national production) and remains mostly traditional (86% of cultivated area). This sector occupies nearly 40% of the labour force while contributing to only 8.16% of the country’s GDP. This contribution has been declining over the past two decades. Because of their rivers and tributaries, wetlands also play a vital role in regulating the hydrological basin of the Congo River, and in the socioeconomic development of the country. These water resources contribute to the employment of 2,500 workers in the fisheries industry, yet the industry provides production well below exploitable potential, which is estimated at 80,000 tonnes per year.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Main threats are anthropogenic, climatic and motivated by various factors such as: people’s need for food and energy, industrial development, illegal wildlife trade and hunting trophies, epidemics and viral diseases, as well as socio-political troubles experienced by the country in the 1990s. Deforestation and the uncontrolled harvesting of non-timber forest products, shifting cultivation, and bushfires are the main pressures to forest ecosystems. The non-existence of adequate monitoring mechanisms for vegetation worsens the situation. Wildlife habitats are being destroyed and fragmentation perpetrated by these activities affects the ecological balance. Genetic erosion is occurring as a result of the depletion of plant species, or the disappearance of endemic ones. Unsustainable agricultural methods (shifting cultivation, slash and burn agriculture, use of fertilizers and pesticides, uncontrolled grazing land management) are also putting pressure on natural ecosystems. Inland waters are threatened by overexploitation, destructive fishing methods (use of non-regulatory mesh nets, chemicals, explosives), and invasive alien species, while marine waters are threatened by dredging, pollution from oil exploitation, overfishing without quotas compliance and coastal erosion destroying the spawning grounds.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Although the NBSAP (2006-2010) was validated in 2006, it has not yet received government endorsement. As a result, actions for implementing the NBSAP have not been scheduled. The strategy comprises 5 objectives: scientific and technological research, marine and coastal environments, agriculture, environmental education, land use and the sustainable management of forests and wildlife. In spite of advances related to the national policy on biodiversity, the definition of operational strategies remains weak. There is a lack of both synergy among the various stakeholders and cross-sectoral program development. The National Council for the Environment was created in 1992 to address these issues however has not been operational for many years.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Congo has 15 protected areas representing approximately 11% of the country (surface area of 3,655,402 ha). Many inventories were undertaken to improve biodiversity knowledge, especially in the northern forest where companies are strongly involved in forest management. Botanical and ethnobotanical surveys were also initiated in protected areas, areas experiencing high human pressure and ecosystems in an advanced state of deterioration. In addition, a draft project on the conservation and sustainable management of coastal mangrove in the Kouilou zone, conducted with the participation of local communities, enabled the analysis of the state of mangrove resources and socioeconomic elements linked to these ecosystems. Sanctuaries (Lossi, Tchipounga, Lesio-Louna) were created for orphan baby gorillas and chimpanzees whose parents were killed by poachers. In 2000, a program was launched to develop management plans for forest concessions, aimed at achieving sustainable forest ecosystem management, with 32 Forestry Development Units (UFAs) comprising 9,375,399 ha linked to this program. As part of the implementation of the National Project on Climate Change, Congo also proceeded to inventory emission sources and sinks of GHGs and assess the vulnerability of natural ecosystems.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Congo is a member of many international organisms and involved in numerous regional programs related to the implementation of the CBD (e.g. COMIFAC, CEFDHAC, RAPAC, OFSAC, OSFAC, PFBC, GRASP). A national biosecurity framework (GMO legislation, among other legislation) has been developed and the biological diversity clearing-house mechanism (CHM) and biosafety clearing-house mechanism (BCH) have been implemented.

Locally, 10 laws, 4 decrees and 4 orders have been adopted to strengthen the legislative framework for the management of biological resources. Degraded areas have been restored through the implementation of measures for biological control, forestation and reforestation, development of the Forest Management Plan, establishment of protected areas, as well as actions for improving the capacity of different stakeholders, among other activities. Codes for fishing, mining, water, land, etc. have also been adopted. Mainstreaming has taken place primarily in the forest sector. Certification (FSC) has been obtained for selected management units (UFA Kabo, UFA Pokola, UFA Ngombé) which attests that products are drawn from sustainably managed forests. Several activities were also initiated from 1999 to 2006 through the implementation of the biodiversity project funded by the Global Environment Fund (GEF).

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

The content of this biodiversity profile is still draft. The text below has been prepared by SCBD and remains subject to final approval by the Party concerned.

Monitoring and anti-poaching units (USLAB) have been implemented in national parks and in Forestry Development Units (UFAs). Data on animal populations are however fragmented and generally limited to signalling the presence of animals. Congo also provides monitoring data for the status of forests in Central Africa (Project FORAF as part of the Satellite Observatory of Central African Forests (OSFAC) which is part of the COMIFAC). An assessment of forest resources has been updated and progress evaluated in regard to sustainable forest management, based on ATO/ITTO principles, criteria and indicators for the sustainable management of African natural tropical forests.