August 2011 I had the opportunity to collect pholcid spiders in Gabon.
Our plan was to visit three major centres of endemism: the Monts de
Cristal, the Monts de Belinga, and the Massif de Chaillu. However, on
the way we stopped at many additional places, and pholcids were just
about everywhere. With about 85% percent of its forest still intact,
Gabon offers a glimpse of what the biodiversity must have been like in
many African countries before large-scale deforestation.
With about 35
species of Pholcidae (about 25 of them new), this was the most
successful of all my Africa expeditions in terms of species numers.
However, most of this diversity occurs in a single genus, the West and
Central African Smeringopina. We collected
about 20 species of this genus, all of them probably new.
|At the same time, I
have never seen as many logging trucks as in Gabon. Logging was the
pillar of Gabonese economy prior to the discovery of oil, and its
importance may increase again as Gabonese oil is predicted to be
expended by 2025. At the current rate
of deforestation, the biodiversity is likely to decrease significantly
in the decades ahead, long before we even have
a basic overview about it.
I owe thanks to Jacques Mavoungou for help with permits, to Rodrigues Ango Nkomo for being a reliable driver, guide, and companion, and to my son Simon who often found a species before I had spotted it. Thanks is also due the German Research Foundation for financing this expedition (Project HU 980/9-1).