Mount Nimba Strict Nature Reserve, Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire
The Mount Nimba range (7°32'N - 7° 44'N and 8°20' W - 8°30' W) is a World Heritage Site and a transboundary reserve located on the border between Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia. Its slopes rise abruptly above the surrounding lowland forest and savanna and are covered by dense cloud forest beneath grassy mountain tops. The interlacing forest and grassland provide a variety of habitats with an unusually rich flora and fauna, including unique endemic species such as viviparous toads.
Threats to the site
In 1992 the Reserve was threatened by two invasions: an iron-ore mining concession in part of the site was proposed by an international consortium, and a large number of refugees from Liberia invaded areas around and within the Park.
The WH Committee expressed its concern, placing the reserve on the List of the World Heritage in Danger. The Guinean government stated that there had been an error in the definition of the boundary at the time of the World Heritage nomination and the area proposed for mining was not part of the reserve. The government accepted the recommendation by an expert mission of a corrected boundary which would ensure the site's integrity. This the World Heritage Committee confirmed. In response to the Committee's concern about the impacts of mining, the refugees and other threats to the site, the Guinean Ministry for Energy and Environment in 1995 established a Management Centre, responsible for environmental and legal questions, for monitoring the water quality of the region, for socio-economic studies and integrated rural development.
The Mount Nimba range is in the far southeast of Guinea, on the border with Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia, 60 kilometers (km) east of N'Zérékoré in Guinea. The boundary follows the border between the three countries, excluding the Liberian part of the range from the World Heritage Site: 7°32'N - 7° 44'N and 8°20' W - 8°30' W.
Date and history of establishment
- 1943: A strict nature reserve was established in Côte d'Ivoire as a forêt classée;
- 1944: The reserve established by decree in Guinea. The given area of 17,130 hectares (ha) included the Ivorean section, but excluded part of the Tuo ridge. Mining in the reserve was assumed a possibility;
- 1980: The Guinean Mt. Nimba was recognized as a Biosphere Reserve under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme; Ivorian and Liberian Mt. Nimba were also included within the Biosphere Reserve;
- 1981: The Guinean sector inscribed on the World Heritage List;
- 1982: The Côte d'Ivoire sector inscribed on the World Heritage List;
- 1991: The Reserve boundary was revised to exclude a 4,530 ha area of ore deposits included in error in 1980.
Government, in Lola prefecture, Guinea. Administered by the Ministry of Agriculture & Animal Resources, National Department of Forests and Hunting.
The Mount Nimba range is a 40 km-long narrow ridge running southwest to northeast, part of a Guinean mountain backbone bordering Sierra Leone and Liberia, of Precambrian basement rock, predominantly granites. It rises abruptly 1,000 m above an almost flat surrounding glacis. The range is a striking example of erosional processes. The sharp relief of the mountains, with their grass-covered summits, precipitous slopes and flat open piedmont, is formed by a ridge of iron-quartzite emerging from softer metamorphic rocks. Weathering also left a gigantic sheet of hard iron-quartzite jutting out of the eroded piedmont schists and granite gneiss. This crusts over the whole glacis of the eastern and northern parts of the piedmont giving very poor soils, usually skeletal lithosols if present at all. These soil conditions explain the treeless grassy summits as well as the belt of savanna at 500-550 m around the mountains above which the forests take over The Nimba Mountains have great topographical diversity, with valleys, plateaux, rounded hilltops, rocky peaks, abrupt cliffs, waterfalls and bare granite blocks; the whole area being a vast water catchment and reservoir. They are the source of the rivers Cavally (or Diougou) and Ya (or Nuon, the Mami River of Liberia) which cut deep richly forested valleys. The southern two-fifths of the mountain range are in Liberia. Unfortunately for its conservation, the quartzite underlying the range, especially the northernmost peaks of Pierré Richaud and Mt. Sempéré, contains high quality iron-ore bearing rock.
Mount Nimba has a sub-equatorial montane climate subject to several influences. The south end of the range experiences the southwesterly monsoon from the ocean and the north end dry northeasterly harmattan winds from the desert. To seasonal changes are added two climatic gradients: altitudinal and along its length, also rain-shadowing, marked diurnal variations in temperature and a persistent daily belt of cloud above ~950 m. The following relies on data from the Liberian sector. The mean minimum and maximum temperatures recorded are 14°C and 30°C respectively (17°and 23° on the peaks). The mean annual rainfall is about 3,000 millimeters (mm), but varies with elevation from ~1,750 mm at the base (1,430 mm at the north end) to ~3,300 mm on the peaks, also with aspect, ocean-facing slopes being wetter than north-facing rain shadowed slopes. The wettest months are usually April to November (May to November on the peaks). There is pronounced variation, but rainfall is usually heaviest from August to October. January is the driest month with a mean rainfall of 20 mm. Relative humidity in the mornings is 94% to 99%, dropping in the afternoon as much as 70-80%. A mean minimum of 18% is recorded in January and February when dry frequently heavily dust-laden winds blow from the desert. For much of the year, except during the dry season, a belt of dense cloud develops daily above 850 m and hangs halfway up the mountain. Detailed accounts of the climate are given in Schnell (1952) and Adam (1983).
Mount Nimba is near the border between the tropical forest and the West African savanna belt. It is part of an archipelago of peaks and plateaux, an isolated refugium covered by Guinean montane forest, which rises steeply above undulating lowland forest plains. It is known as a centre of plant diversity mostly for its forests, although its endemic distinctiveness is in the montane grassland zone. Over 2,000 species of vascular plants with 16 of the 35 considered endemic to the region have been described from the area by Adam (1971-83). There are three major vegetation types: high altitude grassland with relict highland forest, [[piedmont edaphic savanna from 550-600 m with gallery forest between 1,000 and 1,600 m, and primary forest in the foothills between 600 and 1,000 m, all possessing a high diversity of plants.
The unique high altitude grassland or montane savanna is dominated by Loudetia kagerensis on the summits. Endemics include a fern, Asplenium schnellii (I), two flowering plants, Osbeckia porteresii (I) and Blaeria nimbana, also Dolichos nimbaensis, and Euphorbia depauperata, found only on the mountain and in Ethiopia. On the slopes there are woody plants such as the regional endemic Protea occidentalis. The piedmont savanna is patchy, varying according to its degree of laterization and pan-development; in places it is marshy overlying rock pavement. It supports a high diversity of herbaceous communities. Beyond these edaphic savannas is a wide plain covered with lowland forest.
Remnants of montane forest are likely to be dominated by Mytaceae species and the highest valleys by the tree fern Cyathula cylindrica var.mannii. The savanna is broken by gallery forests which extend up mountainside ravines between 1,000 m and 1,600 m. There is a sudden change to sub-montane cloud forest around 900 m and above 1,000 m Parinari excelsa becomes dominant, with Syzygium montanum Ochna and Gaertnera spp. In these mid-altitude cloud forests above 1,200 m there are abundant lianas, epiphytes, ferns lycopods, lichens, fungi and mosses. There are 101 species of orchid, including an endemic, Rhipidoglossum paucifolium. Drier semi-deciduous mid-altitude forests with trees such as Triplochiton scleroxylon, Piptadeniastrum africanum, and Parkia bicolor are found at the northern end of the range on the slopes more exposed to dessicating winds from the desert. They are rarer than rainforests because of agricultural pressure, and some of the dry forest species have disappeared from many areas. The dense, moist, predominantly primary lowland forest is in the foothills and lower valleys especially in the south between 550 and 900 m. The dominant species include Lophira procera, Tarrietia utilis, Mapania spp.,Chlorophora regia, Morus mesozygia and Terminalia ivorensis. Secondary forest is found where land has been disturbed for slash and burn farming. Reduction and degradation of the area by mining may also lead to invasion by weedy exotic plants, and a decline in those animal species which need undisturbed space to reproduce successfully.
More than 500 new species of fauna have been discovered in Mount Nimba Reserve, and in the past, more than 200 endemic species were found on the Liberian end of Mt. Nimba. The species diversity is exceptionally rich because of the variety of habitats created by the presence of grasslands laced with forest, and the variety of microclimatic niches.
There are small primate populations of potto Perodicticus potto, western black and white colobus Colobus polykomos, red colobus Colobus badius (EN), diana monkey Cercopithecus diana (EN), lesser bushbaby Galago senegalensi and chimpanzees Pan troglodytes (EN) which are close neighbors of the tool-using population in Bossou. Other mammals include tree pangolin Manis tricuspis and, probably, giant and longtailed pangolins M. gigantea and M.longicaudata, cane rat Thryonomys swinderianus, African clawless otter Aonyx capensis and lesser otter shrew Micropotamogale lamottei (EN), a new genus discovered on Mount Nimba, two-spotted palm civet Nandinia binotata, African civet Viverra civetta, forest genet Genetta maculata, servaline genet G. servalina, the rare Johnston's genet G. johnstoni, red mongoose Herpestes sanguineus, golden cat Felis aurata , leopard Panthera pardus and lion P. leo (VU). There are also is an isolated population of the Cape dassie Procavia capensis, also tree hyrax Dendrohyrax dorsalis; and bush pig Potamochoerus porcus, warthog Phacochoerus aethiopicus, bushbuck Tragelaphus scriptus, Maxwell's duiker Cephalophus maxwelli and black duiker C. niger, bay duiker C. dorsalis and forest buffalo Syncerus caffer nanus. Many of these are prey of the growing number of leopards. There are many species of squirrels, rodents and bats which are rare elsewhere such as Stanger's squirrel Protoxerus tangeri, white-toothed shrew Crocidura nimbae and Beecroft's bat Anomaurops beecrofti. Information on the distribution, feeding and breeding of fifty-five mammal species is given in Coe (1975) and later information in Lamotte (1998). The pygmy hippopotamus Choeropsis liberiensis, is no longer found on the mountain.
The forests contain more than 10 reptile and amphibian species including West African toad Bufo superciliaris and the frogs Cassina lamottei and Arthrolepis crusculum. The most noteworthy species is the viviparous toad Nimbaphrynoides occidentalis (EN), which occurs in montane grasslands at 1,200-1,600 m and is one of the world's few tailless amphibians that is totally viviparous. N.liberiensis, also found on Mount Nimba, shares this characteristic which is an adaptation to xeric conditions. Fish are abundant, especially below 500 m: 15 families and 22 genera are found. Upland invertebrate species include gastropod molluscs and many species of insects belonging to the Carabidae, Gryllidae, Acrididae and the Forciculidae (beetle, grasshopper, cricket and earwig) families, of which more than 20 are endemic to the massif.
The avifauna is very diverse, reflecting the diversity of topographic and climatic conditions and a number of rare and endemic bird species occur, especially in the various types of forest. 72 species have been recorded as resident, but this must be a small proportion of what may exist on site. These include the near-endemic white-eyed prinia Prinia leontica (VU), the grey-winged robinchat Cossypha polioptera, lemon dove Columba larvata, Sharp's apalis Apalis sharpei, whitenecked rockfowl Picathartes gymnocephalus (VU) and Nimba flycatcher Melaenornis annamarulae (VU), A detailed account of birds in Liberian Nimba is given in Coston & Curry-Lindahl (1986).
Local human population
There has probably never been any village on the mountains, which have been partly protected out of fear of resident spirits, but there is some vegetational evidence of former village sites on the lower levels, now overgrown. There are ten existing villages nearby with several thousand inhabitants, mainly cultivators. Since 1991, population pressure has increased following the influx of refugees from Liberia.
Visitor and visitor facilities
Tourism is prohibited within the strict nature reserves, but is permitted within the biosphere reserve in organized groups.
Scientific research and facilities
The mountain has been well studied taxonomically, geological, botanical and zoological inventories (except for birds) having been completed. A summary of the natural history of the Nimba range in Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia is given by Curry-Lindahl & Harroy (1972) and a bibliography and other studies are given in Colston & Curry-Lindahl (1986). Descriptions of early work on Liberian Nimba are given in Coe & Curry-Lindahl (1965) and Curry-Lindahl (1965,1968,1969). The single most important work is probably that of Adam on the flora (1971-1983) while the Guinean and Côte d'Ivoirean sections of Nimba are well known through a number of publications. The major works are by Leclerc et al. (1955) on the geography, Schnell (1952) on the montane vegetation, and on the fauna: Angel et al. (1954a; 1954b), Heim de Balsac (1958), Heim de Balsac & Lamotte (1958). Guibe & Lamotte (1958, 1963), Laurent (1958), Lamotte (1959), Aellen (1963) and Lamotte & Xavier (1972). Several international research workers in the fields of biology, ecology, geography, primatology and meteorology are interested in the area. With appropriate facilities, scientific research on Mount Nimba could form the basis of a tropical ecology station of international importance.
More than 500 new species have been described or reported, including several mammals, one a new genus of otter shrew, more than ten amphibians and reptiles, several fish and arthropods, notably centipedes and harvestmen, and molluscs. Research includes phyto-sociological studies of high altitude grasslands, primate studies, and meteorological data. There are six patrol stations in the reserve which are used to monitor various environmental parameters. The field research station of the Institute Français pour l'Afrique Noire (IFAN) is at the northern tip of the massif and has a long record of published research. In Liberia, the Nimba Research Laboratory has been in operation since 1963, under the aegis of the IUCN Nimba Research Committee, partly funded by LAMCO (the Liberian-American Minerals Company). The government has organized various missions and training conferences together with UNESCO in order to redefine the problems of ecosystem protection. These missions have added to scientific knowledge of various fauna and flora species, and soils. During the same period the tool-using chimpanzees at nearby Bossou were studied by the Institute of Primatology, University of Kyoto.
The area of dense forest on the mountain is of great topographic diversity and geologic and biological interest with its variety of habitats due to the interpenetration of forest and grassland, the differences in substrates, altitude, microclimates and consequent vegetation types. It has an especially rich flora and fauna, with endemic species such as the viviparous toad and is known as a centre of plant diversity.
Mining Mount Nimba for iron ore in the northernmost peaks, Pierré Richaud and Mt. Sempéré, has always been intended as soon as it became practicable: a 20-volume study of its feasibility was completed in 1978. It was also intended to reinvest some profits in rehabilitating the mine site and improving maintenance of the Reserve. In 1989-91, UNDP, UNESCO and the Guinean government studied the impacts of opencast extraction and farming on the site, including research to complete knowledge of its extremely rich ecosystems, with measures for its monitoring and protection. This was the basis for a 1991 management plan for a transition zone of 160,000 ha of the entire Guinean part of the high basin of the Cavally river (R.Diougou). The government also stated then that there had been an error in the definition of the boundary at the time of the World Heritage nomination and the area proposed for mining was not part of the reserve. The government accepted the recommendation by an expert mission of a corrected boundary which would ensure the site's integrity. Mining did not prove economically feasible at that time, but a reduction of 4,530 ha in the World Heritage Site area was accepted by the WHC to preserve the integrity of the rest of the property while allowing for future mining.
In 1995 the Guinean government Ministry for Energy and Environment established the Centre for Environmental Management of Mount Nimba (Centre de Gestion de l'Environnement des Monts Nimba, CEGEN) which is responsible for environmental and legal questions, monitoring the water quality of the region, for socio-economic studies and integrated rural development. While developing the mine on Pierré Richaud during the next 25 years, it undertook to enhance the economic growth of the region in a way respectful of the integrity of the Reserve. In this it will be aided by funding from GEF and USAID to help control water pollution and for forgoing the extraction of 50 million tons of iron-rich ore. In 1999 funding was recommended for the protection of the site from the effects of the proposed adjacent mine. In 2000, 2001 and 2002 meetings were held between the government, WHF, Rio Tinto and several conservation nongovernmental organization (NGOs) on the need for clear boundary marking, transboundary cooperation, surrounding community relations and fundraising. A UNDP/GEF project was funded to provide guidelines for integrated management and support services to build local capacity, develop an integrated project and set up a tri-national Mount Nimba Foundation. This the Cote d'Ivoire was not able to join, being independently financed by the World Bank and EEU. But by 2002, the WHC noted that Liberia had joined the Convention, transborder collaboration was improving, and it urged settlement of differences between Guinea and Cote'Ivoire over the Dere-Tiapleu forest border.
Habitat destruction constitutes a major threat, principally through slash and burn farming and the ensuing wildfires. Hunting pressure on the large fauna comes from Liberians and Ivoreans as well as Guineans. The Reserve has been threatened by the arrival of a large number of refugees from Liberia to areas in and around the World Heritage site. Their poaching for bushmeat is common throughout the range. The other major threat is from large-scale iron ore mining. From the 1950s this did enormous damage to East Nimba and West Nimba National Forests in the Liberian part of the range until its ore deposits were exhausted in 1989. The area now designated as a World Heritage Site excludes both the Liberian sector, defaced by the past mining and intensively poached, and the northern end in Guinea, now extensively disturbed by mining activity.
Since 1975, at the north end of the mountains, roads, wells and mineshafts have been built and workshops and townships established in what was a strict nature reserve in 1944. About 6,000 ha are affected. 800 ha will be destroyed at the Pierré Richaud mine. Hundreds of square meters of ]]soil]] have been removed over large areas and as a result erosion is serious, streams for miles around are fouled by heavy metal run-off, especially ferruginous rock debris. The 1990 plan proposed to mine ore deposits found in the final 300 m of the hills in the center of the Guinean section. These cover a plan area of some 197 ha. with an estimated 300 million tonnes of iron ore and an annual production of 12 million tonnes and 80 million tonnes of tailings. It is hoped that environmental impacts will be reduced by using infrastructure already in place in Liberia, such as the railway to the deep-water port at Buchanan. The Billiton and EURONIMBA companies involved undertook to control water pollution and minimize the presence of the mining communities within the Park. A study of the best way to rehabilitate the zones as artificial parks was proposed: if hunting were strictly controlled, the two areas could serve as buffer zones for the World Heritage site. The disturbance could nevertheless initiate invasion of the Reserve by exotic species. These threats led to the site being added to the List of World Heritage in Danger in 1992.
There is a total of 11, with three researchers.
There is little information on earlier funding but in 1996 US$20,000 was provided by the WHF for technical assistance. In 2000 a UNDP/GEF Project financed by the WHF and GEF granted $6m towards an $8m program of development to preserve and maintain the site; and in 2001 WHF gave US$30,000 towards a biodiversity project.
IUCN management category
- Ia Strict Nature Reserve Biosphere Reserve
- Natural World Heritage Site, inscribed in 1981 & 1982.
- Natural Criteria ii, iv.Listed as World Heritage in Danger in 1992 because of invasion by refugees and proposed iron mining.
- Adam, J. (1971-1983). Flore descriptive des Monts Nimba. Vols.1-6. Mémoires du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, B.20: 1-527; 22: 529-908.
- Adam J. (1981). Flore Descriptive des Monts Nimba (Côte d'Ivoire, Guinée, Libéria). Editions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris.
- Aellen, V. (1963). La Réserve Intégrale du Mont Nimba, 29. Chiroptères. Mémoires de l'Institut Français d'Afrique Noire, 66: 629-638.
- Angel, F., Guibé, J.& Lamotte, M. (1954a). La reserve integrale du Mont Nimba, 31. Lézards. Mémoires de l'Institut Français d'Afrique Noire 40: 371-380.
- Angel, F.,Guibé, J. & Lamotte, M. (1954a). La Reserve Integrale du Mont Nimba, 32. Serpents. Mémoires de l'Institut Français d'Afrique Noire 40: 381-402.
- Anon. (1952). La réserve naturelle intégrale du Mont Nimba. Mémoires de l'Institut Français d'Afrique Noire, 19.
- Anon. (1958). La réserve naturelle intégrale du Mont Nimba. Mémoires de l'Institut Français d'Afrique Noire, 53.
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- Coe, M. (1975). Mammalian ecological studies on Mount Nimba, Liberia. Mammalia 39: 523-587.
- Coe, M.& Curry-Lindahl, K. (1965). Ecology of a mountain: first report on Liberian Nimba. Oryx 8: 177-184.
- Colston, P.& Curry-Lindahl, K. (1986). The Birds of Mount Nimba, Liberia. British Museum (Natural History), London. Publication No. 982. London. 129 pp. ISBN: 0565009826.
- Curry-Lindahl, K. (1965). Biological investigations of the Nimba Range, Liberia. IUCN Bulletin. New Series 17: 7.
- Curry-Lindahl, K. (1968). Activities of the Nimba Research Committee. IUCN Bulletin 2:1.
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- Fournier, A. (1987). Quelques données quantitatives sur les formations herbacées d'altitude des monts Nimba (Ouest africain). Bulletin du Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle, 4e série 9, section B, Adansonia 2: 153-166.
- Guibé, J. & Lamotte, M. (1958). La réserve intégrale du Mont Nimba, 12. Batraciens. Mémoires de l'Institut Français d'Afrique Noire, 53: 241-273.
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- Lamotte, M. (1959). Observations écologiques sur les populations naturelles de Nectophrynoides occidentalis (Fam. Bufonidés). Bull. Biol. Fr. Belg. 93: 355-413.
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- Laurent, R. (1958). La réserve intégrale du Mont Nimba. 13. Les rainettes du genre Hyperolius. Mémoires de l'Institut Français d'Afrique Noire, 53: 275-299.
- Lebbie, A. (2001). Guinean Montane Forests (ATO114). Draft report to WWF.
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- World Heritage Nomination submitted to UNESCO.
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