ANPN's biggest challenge is to protect the parks' wildlife and habitats from hunting and other illegal activities, however scientific research that informs the government on national and international strategies, policy and planning is also a key part of its mission, under the Green Gabon pillar of Emergent Gabon. Much of this strategic research is done in partnership with a number of expert partners, and ANPN has a small, but growing, research staff on the ground. This research is designed to equip the government with high quality scientific data to enable informed negotiations and better policy decisions for the country. Carbon Sequestration and Global Warming
Tropical forests are vital carbon sinks, and accurate monitoring of the carbon stocks of tropical vegetation is needed to identify trends in carbon dioxide emissions from tropical deforestation and degradation. Measuring these carbon stocks allows the Government of Gabon to develop policies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the effects of climate change.
Gabon is one of the first developing countries in the world to map, assess and set up a monitoring system covering all of its terrestrial ecosystems and carbon stocks. Through ANPN, the government has commissioned a multidisciplinary team of satellite specialists and experts in ground-based forest monitoring to help with this task. ANPN has partnered with AGEOS, NASA, USFS, USAID, UCLA, Duke University, OLAM Gabon, University of Leeds, and the University of Texas to gather and analyse field data from a network of 100 botanical plots, aerial LiDAR data and satellite data. Preliminary carbon maps have been generated for Gabon at different spatial scales, and are being refined with the addition of new data. In addition, the country's first mangrove carbon assessment has just been conducted, indicating the exceptional value mangroves hold for carbon storage.
ANPN is also partnering with Oxford University to form part of its Global Ecological Monitoring project, which is an international effort to measure and understand forest ecosystem functions and traits, and how these will respond to climate change. ANPN's research teams have set up 6 botanical plots in 3 sites in Gabon, which are monitored over time to measure finescale ecological metrics linked to metabolism, growth and respiration, in addition to climatic data in an effort to understand how carbon cycles function in different kinds of tropical forest. Predicting how resilient Gabon's forests are likely to be to future climate change is key to informing policy on land-use planning and protected area boundaries.
Marine and Coastal Ecosytems
While over 10% of Gabon's terrestrial landmass is protected as national parks, there is only one small marine national park (Mayumba), leaving the vast majority of marine ecosystems unprotected. In 2013, the President of Gabon created 'Gabon Bleu'; the fourth pillar of emergent Gabon and a strategy by which concerted and coordinated efforts can be made to protect marine habitat and improve fisheries management. In collaboration with the relevant government departments and other partners including the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Partenariat des Tortues Marines du Gabon, University of Exeter, WWF and Manga, ANPN is spearheading the 'Gabon Bleu' vision. Current research activities include the identification of key migration and nesting habitat for threatened sea turtles, the mapping of artisanal and industrial fishing effort, fisheries catch data, the description of marine habitats, cetacean research and an examination of the ways in which the oil and gas industry can be managed to limit negative impacts and promote positive ones. The ANPN and partners are also involved in the analysis of all marine and coastal datasets to help design an extension of the current national park network to include a greatly increased area of marine protection.
The 'Arc Emerald' programme aims to develop an integrated management of the three protected areas closest to Libreville; Akanda, Pongara and the Arboretum Raponda-Walker. With expanding urban development from Libreville posing a threat to these areas, this programme addresses the Government's strategic vision for the sustainable management of natural resources and tourism development for the whole area. Due to begin in 2014, a research strategy that specifically addresses the 'Arc Emerald' programme objectives will be designed.
With the creation of 8 Ramsar sites in Gabon, and in line with Green Gabon's vision for the sustainable management of natural resources, the Government of Gabon is in need of solid scientific data on freshwater systems to inform country-wide decision-making processes, such as the National Land Use Plan and the National Wetlands Management plan. ANPN is committed to finding solutions to the sustainable management of freshwater ecosystems and wetlands in Gabon. The Ogooué River Basin Sustainable Management Project is a new project led by The Nature Conservancy in partnership with ANPN, CENAREST, MINEF, the Direction Generale de l'Environnement, and other in-country partners, that aims to support development and protected area management approaches that protect freshwater biodiversity and ecosystem services (such as hydropower, fisheries, and clean drinking water) for people and wildlife throughout the basin.