Back from Africa
Tuur Moelants is working within the RMCA’s Ichthyology unit where he finishes his doctoral thesis.
His latest mission (14/11/2012 - 4/12/2012): collecting data in the region of Yangambi (DR Congo) within the context of the COBAFISH project.
The Congo Basin is one of the major hotspots for diversity of fresh water fish. However, most of our knowledge dates from the 1960s. The inventory of the fish is far from being complete and difficulties in identifying this enormous ichthyofauna abound. Modern studies on ecology and on the diet of fish from the Congo Basin are very rare, notably because of a lack of taxonomic knowledge.
It is with the objective of remedying this lack of knowledge that COBAFISH, a project that falls within the framework of the “Congo Biodiversity Initiative” and led by Dr. Erik Verheyen (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences), was launched.
As regards the fish, the project has several objectives:
- studying the diversity and ecology of the fish in the Congo River and two of its tributaries (the rivers Lobilo and Lomami);
- identifying the factors which regulate this diversity;
- assessing to what extent the fish are dependent on aquatic or terrestrial food sources.
Tuur Moelants was part of the Belgo-Congolese multidisciplinary team of six researchers and students. Fishing nets were placed in the Lobilo and Lomami rivers and in the Congo River in order to harvest and study the fish. Potential food sources for these fish were also collected (fruit, grain, aquatic plants, terrestrial and aquatic insects etc.). Finally, the quality of the water and the exchanges in CO2 between the water and the air were established by the team.
The fish were measured and identified as well as was possible in an improvised field laboratory. Samples of muscular tissue were taken in order to study the diet of the fish. Part of the fin of each specimen was conserved for genetic analysis. Samples of water were treated and conserved so that measurements could be carried out in Belgium.
The fact that these data were gathered from three different locations will enable the comparison between the quality of the water, diversity of fish, food etc. between a small tributary of the Congo River with little human impact (Lobilo), a large tributary with greater human impact (Lomami) and the Congo River itself.