On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity, a team made up of 67 Belgian, Congolese and international scientists set off on an expedition along the Congo River. Natural and social scientists as well as health experts made their way along a 1000 km stretch of this mighty river, from Kisangani to Bumba and back, to study biodiversity and development issues along the river and in the forests of the Congo basin.
Their immediate aim was to establish a baseline of the biodiversity and ecosystem services in this vast region. The ultimate goal of the collaborative effort, however, reaches far beyond. The successful collaboration that underpinned the expedition will be continued in the establishment of a Centre for the study of biodiversity at the University of Kisangani, and the rehabilitation of the renowned Herbarium of Yangambi. These centres will provide access to, and facilities for, the study of the historical biodiversity data and collections made during the expedition, for local and international scientists.
All these activities were recently regrouped in the ´the Congo Biodiversity Initiative´ (www.congobiodiv.org), an open networking platform that aims at enhancing biodiversity research and knowledge of the Congo Basis ecosystem, to improve the understanding and sustainable use of biodiversity and ecosystem services, to the benefit of the livelyhoods of local communities.