Over the years a large number of collaborating scientists have carried out research at Lopé, which is now one of the most well-known and well-studied sites in Central Africa, with over 150 publications. Long-term datasets unique for the region are maintained by permanent research staff at the SEGC research station. Most research has been carried out in the north-eastern sector of the park; despite the wealth of information, large areas of the park still remain relatively unexplored. The principle areas of research that have been addressed at Lopé are outlined below.
Primatology Primatology is one of the main areas of scientific expertise in Lopé and researchers at SEGC pioneered ecological studies of wild chimpanzees, gorillas and mandrills in western central Africa. As a result of 25 years of continuous research, Lopé remains a site of reference for data on feeding ecology and habitat use for these species. In addition to ecological studies, genetic work has also been carried out on gorillas and there is a growing database on primate health, with a more recent shift in focus to ape health issues and emergent disease. Studies on wild mandrill ecology were pioneered at Lopé, and radio-tracking methods were employed to study their movements and ecology over a 10 year period. The smaller diurnal primates have received less attention, although feeding ecology and habitat use have been studied in a few species, as well as general population monitoring and community-level ecology.
major large mammal species have been the subject of much detailed research at
Lopé. The feeding ecology, social structure, habitat use, ranging patterns,
abundance and distribution of elephants and buffalo have been examined by
numerous researchers, and genetics work is ongoing for both species. The
feeding ecology and population status of leopards and golden cats have also
been studied through camera-trapping work and dung analysis. Less focussed work
has been carried out on the other mammal species at Lopé, although some data do
exist on the abundance and distribution of red river hogs and forest duikers.
Vegetation, landscape and the environment Lopé’s forests and savannahs have been the focus of detailed research for almost 3 decades. Studies of forest structure and phenology were originally carried out to support research on mammalian ecology, but are now valuable in themselves to provide long-term indicators of forest behaviour in response to climate change. Long-term forest plots were originally set up to study logging impacts and are now invaluable in ongoing studies of carbon stocks and carbon dynamics in Gabon’s rainforests. All major habitat types have been described and spatially referenced, and the history of the dynamic forest-savannah transition zone in Lopé is well-described.
Man and the Environment
one of the most important archeological sites in Central Africa, and as such
has been the focus of extensive research for over 30 years. The important role that man has played in shaping the Lopé landscape is an ongoing source of research. Several
sociological studies have been carried out within the local community, and SEGC
also ran a large, nationwide project looking at the cultural and economic
significance of the bushmeat trade.
Other areas of research
of smaller projects have contributed to our knowledge of lesser studied taxa in
Lopé over the years. The invasive fire ant Wasmannia auropunctata has been almost continuously monitored since the mid 1990's and
bats have received some attention. However reptiles, amphibians, birds,
small mammals and invertebrates remain poorly studied at Lopé.