Ecological Research

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 789–798 | Cite as

Using phytostabilisation to conserve threatened endemic species in southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • Sylvain BoissonEmail author
  • Maxime Séleck
  • Soizig Le Stradic
  • Julien Collignon
  • Olivier Garin
  • François Malaisse
  • Mylor Ngoy Shutcha
  • Grégory Mahy
Special Feature Ultramafic Ecosystems: Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Serpentine Ecology


Outcrops in the southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are recognized as some of the largest copper–cobalt orebodies in the world. They support a unique vegetation with nearly 600 metallophytes that include rare and endemic species. Mineral exploitation has increased considerably in the region since the 1900s, affecting both environmental and public health. Phytostabilisation of polluted areas represents an opportunity to decrease the bioavailability of heavy metals in the highly polluted soils that result from ore extraction. Such a technique has been successfully implemented near Lubumbashi with the grass Microchloa altera. However, long-term maintenance requires a good understanding of interspecific relationships, such as competition and facilitation. This study tested the establishment success of four herbaceous species from the Katangan Copperbelt by assessing the potential role of Microchloa altera as a nurse species. Two annual and two perennial species were sown in an experiment designed to study the influence of soil amendment and vegetation cover on seedling emergence, growth, and survival. These variables were monitored during the vegetation growing season as well as resprouting success for perennials. Microchloa altera showed a distinct effect on the emergence and survival of annual and perennial species and negatively affected the growth of individuals belonging to both groups of species.


Phytostabilisation Conservation Copper endemic Bare rich-soil Facilitation 



The research was made possible thanks to the financial input of the Fonds de la Recherche dans l’Industrie et dans l’Agriculture (FRIA) of the FNRS (Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique), Belgium. Sylvain Boisson was an FNRS PhD student. The authors also thank Tenke Fungurume Mining SARL (TFM, Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold) for the seeds of endemic species. The Coopération Universitaire au Développement (CUD) is acknowledged for the funding support of the seedbank of the Faculty of Agronomy in the University of Lubumbashi (PIC REMEDLU) and the fellowship of Julien Collignon and Olivier Garin who performed their Master theses in the DRC. The authors also gratefully acknowledge Benjamin Delory, from the Leuphana University, Lüneburg for the scientific and English formulation advice.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sylvain Boisson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Maxime Séleck
    • 1
  • Soizig Le Stradic
    • 1
  • Julien Collignon
    • 1
  • Olivier Garin
    • 1
  • François Malaisse
    • 1
  • Mylor Ngoy Shutcha
    • 2
  • Grégory Mahy
    • 1
  1. 1.Biodiversity and Landscape Unit, BIOSE-Biosystem Engineering DepartmentGembloux Agro-Bio Tech, University of LiègeGemblouxBelgium
  2. 2.Ecology, Restoration Ecology and Landscape Research Unit, Faculty of AgronomyUniversity of LubumbashiLubumbashiDemocratic Republic of the Congo

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