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Ongoing Projects

Cruising up the Kasaï with the research vessel ‘Kauka’ to reach remote areas of the river basin.

Photo: Matti Barthel


By investigating both the physics and the chemistry of soils and sediments, the TropSEDs project will explore interaction of various processes—both today and over the past 6000 years—and will determine the overall amount of CO2 produced or consumed by erosion. The project is carried out in the Kasaï River Basin of central Africa, a tropical river basin that spans various climatic, geologic, and human-​impacted zones. Little is known about how erosion affects the movement and fate of OC in the tropics, which have unique soils, climates, geologies, and land-​use trajectories compared to the much more studied temperate zones.. Read more

Photo: Travis Drake

Hydrologic and Biogeochemical Fluxes from the Ruki River and Adjacent Swamp Forest

Seasonally and perennially inundated forests comprise a significant portion of the Congo Basin and are vast reservoirs of organic carbon. Preliminary river surveys have suggested that these wet lowlands are significant sources of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere and dissolved organic carbon to the mainstem of the river. However, despite representing an important interface between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, swamp forests of the Congo remain mostly unstudied. Read more

Photo: Matti Barthel

Terrestrial and aquatic nitrogen losses across several tropical forest sites in the DRC

The Congo Basin Rainforest is the second largest rainforest in the world covering an area of 3.7 million square kilometres. However, due to political instability and infrastructure, this vast forest ecosystem was mainly inaccessible for environmental scientist. Thus, it remains a blank spot concerning its role in global biogeochemistry, despite representing one of the most important terrestrial ecosystems in the world. Read more

Information about chemical and physical soil properties is not only crucial for an efficient and sustainable agricultural production, but also to understand nutrient cycles and fluxes. Compared to wet chemistry analyses of soil samples, infrared spectroscopy allows faster, less expensive, environmental-friendly, non-destructive, reproducible results which also cover spatial heterogeneity. We have created a soil mid-infrared library which contains more than 1800 individual soil samples. Read more


Photo: Robert Spencer

Carbon exported from terrestrial ecosystems as organic matter or dissolved inorganic gases represents an important component of the global carbon cycle by returning photosynthetically fixed C to the atmosphere and/or transporting it to downstream ecosystems and the ocean. Over the past decade, the estimated quantity of C transferred from land to aquatic systems has grown substantially, largely due to the better modelling of vertical CO2 losses from outgassing. As the estimates for lateral loses of C to aquatic ecosystems grow, the terrestrial sink for C must decrease or be adjusted to balance the C budget. Read more

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Photo: Kristof Van Oost

Effects of the levelling of Macrotermes falciger termite mound and the spreading of their materials on the spatio-temporal variability of Ferralsol fertility in Lubumbashi

Termites are one of the dominant groups of soil macrofauna in the tropics. They play a central role in the functioning of these ecosystems by regulating the distribution of natural resources such as water and nutrients. Through their trophic, construction and drilling activities, these tropical ecosystem engineers greatly influence the biological, chemical, mineralogical and physical properties of tropical soils. Read more


Photo: Matti Barthel


This study is carried out in the western (DRC) and eastern  (Rwanda and its surrounding) part of Lake Kivu region, located in the humid tropical zone; in the Kivu Highlands region, between 1460 m at the outlet (Lake Kivu) and over 2500 m altitude at the highest point. Accelerated soil erosion is a serious problem in this particular region and the world, with high economic and environmental impacts. Many human activities, such as mining, uncontrolled construction, and agricultural activities, disrupt watersheds and cause erosion. Across the world, land affected by soil degradation due to erosion is estimated at 1100 million ha by water erosion and 550 million ha by wind erosion. Read more

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This project aims at understanding the biogeochemical interactions along tropical regrowth trajectories. The study focusses on how land-use history and atmospheric phosphorus (P) input control the integration of carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and P cycling in African regrowth forests. We want to merge longer-term monitoring efforts on N and C cycling with the P-cycle along well-documented sites in the central Congo basin, and will result in the first study that integrates C-N-P cycling along regrowth trajectories in the Congo Basin. This is important for a future where secondary forests are becoming more abundant than primary forests in the tropics. Read more

Photo: Isaac Makelele

Photo: Marijn Bauters

The First Flux Tower of the Congo Basin Forest

The "Yangambi, scientific pole at the service of man and forests" (YPS) project was identified and formulated in a participatory way in August 2012. CIFOR, which implements the FORETS project "Training, Research, Environment in Tshopo" is the international organization responsible for the implementation of the YPS project. This project will be managed by a delegated co-operation of Belgium and implemented by the European Union. It will strengthen sustainable participatory management of the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve and implement the very first accurate and continuous monitoring of atmosphere-ecosystem exchange of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) in the Congo Basin forest. Read more

Our project focuses on the Province of Équateur, building on the WHRC’s established policy research and capacity building program. It is based in the heart of the central wetland forest zone of the Congo Basin, one of the most carbon dense and biodiverse regions of the world. Much of the basins natural forested land remains largely intact due to a low level of development. Focusing on the expansion of a key agricultural technology (flooded rice production) which presents a critical threat to primary wetland forest ecosystems, we will assess the GHG implications of current versus “climate smart” agronomic practices and the associated social and economic costs and benefits of their adoption at scale. This work, in partnership with ETH Zurich (Dr. Matti Barthel and Dr. Johan Six) on GHG emissions from soils will generate empirical field based evidence, demonstrating how the implementation of “climate smart” flooded rice production can reduce expected GHG emissions from deforestation and increase product yield for smallholder farmers. Read more

Photo: Eva McNamara

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