Investigating the sources and sinks of water of Congo’s wetlands

Friday, 19 December 2014
Fiachra O'Loughlin, University of Bristol, Bristol, United Kingdom, Rodrigo C. D. Paiva, Byrd Polar Research Center, Columbus, OH, United States, Douglas E Alsdorf, Ohio State University Main Campus, Columbus, OH, United States, Michael T Durand, Ohio St Univ-Earth Sciences, Columbus, OH, United States, Edward Beighley II, Northeastern University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Boston, MA, United States, Stephane Calmant, IRD, Toulouse Cedex 09, France, Hyongki Lee, University of Houston, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Houston, TX, United States and Joecila Santos Da Silva, UEA, CESTU, Manaus, Brazil
The Congo is the second largest river basin in the world and indeed there is still a lot to be investigated about the hydrology of this system. This region presents extensive wetlands that may play an important role on the hydrology, carbon and ecological dynamics of the Congo. However, previous studies indicate that these wetlands behave differently from the Amazon, other major rainforest basin, and how water enters and leaves the Cuvette Centrale wetland is still to be quantified. We investigate the sources and sinks of water to the Congo’s wetlands. Our analyses range from simple examinations of precipitation and evaporation historical data to remote sensing datasets and 2 D hydrodynamic modelling of Congo wetlands. Early results show that water levels at wetlands are usually higher than adjacent Congo River water levels and amplitude of variation is considerably smaller. Also, floodplain channels are not observed in this region indicating that surface flows are diffusive. Mean annual precipitation range from 1600 to 2000 mm/year, evapotranspiration estimates are approximately 1100 mm/year while some estimates of groundwater recharge indicate values larger than 300 mm/year. These assessments suggest that volumes coming from local water balance could flood the wetlands to depths of only a few centimeters. Preliminary 2D hydrodynamic simulations show that water coming from main rivers produces at upstream areas can flood only a small part of wetland, mainly alongside these rivers.