The Congo rainforest is a tropical forest in Central Africa covering approximately 1.5 million square miles. It is the second largest rainforest on Earth after the Amazon. The Congolese rainforest region experiences very high rainfall which support numerous flora and fauna. The rainforest extends to numerous countries. The largest section of the forest is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Congo Rainforest then extends to southeastern Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, eastern Gabon, southern side of Central African Republic and to the central and northern parts of the Republic of Congo.
Ecology of the Congo Rainforest
The Congo Rainforest is a broad belt made of lowland tropical forest ecoregion and spans across the Congo River Basin. The forest makes a quarter of the tropical forest cover in the world. The extreme north and south of the forest transits to drier forest-savanna mosaic and grasslands. The western end transits to coastal lower Guinea forests which span from west of Cameroon and Gabon to southern end of Benin and Nigeria. The Congo rainforest transits into Albertine Rift montane forests to the east and covers the linings of Albertine Rift which is part of the East African Rift valley system. The second largest river on Earth in terms of water volume known as the Congo river flows across the forest into the Atlantic Ocean. The World Wide Fund for Nature has divided the rainforest into 5 distinct ecoregions. The regions are Northwestern lowland forests, the Western swamp forest, Eastern swamp forest, Central forest, and the Northeastern Congolese forest.
Animals and Plants in the Congo Rainforest
The rainforest is endowed with numerous flora and fauna species most of which are not found anywhere else in the world. There are over 45 mammal species, 200 species of amphibians, 300 species of reptiles, and about 1,000 species of birds. The forest is home to all the 3 subspecies of gorilla namely the lowland, eastern lowland, and mountain gorilla. Bonobos and African forest elephants thrive in the forest. The okapi, also known as the forest giraffe, is only found in the Congo Rainforest. The Okapi is brown in color but the legs have white stripes. One of the most endangered monkey species known as the Black Colobus monkey thrives within the high canopies. Close to a thousand plant species are unique to the forest. There are over 10,000 species of plants with some regions having vegetation so dense that it has never been accessed by human beings. The tall teak trees which can grow to a height of 154 feet are common in the forest.
Threats and Conservation of the Congo Rainforest
The Congo Rainforest has abundance of natural resources. The vast resources attract human beings who invade the ecosystem so as to extract them. Mining and logging are threatening the sustainability of the vast forest. Joint conservation efforts across all the countries have been enhanced to curb hunting which has led to the diminishing of various animal species. Tactics such as the involvement of local communities plus collaboration across boundaries have been employed to enhance the sustainability of the ecosystem. A total of 5 national parks in the rainforest are classified in the UN World Heritage Sites because of their significance to the ecosystem.