Biodiversity Conservation in two selected perturbed aquatic bodies in Nigeria and Ghana: An integrated Approach
Tropical aquatic bodies are naturally characterized by a rich and diverse assemblage of plant and animal resources, which are of great economic importance. Traditionally, these areas support the livelihood of local dwellers in the area through provision of seafoods, wood fuel, etc. However, tropical water bodies are today highly threatened by environmental degradation arising form developmental projects, erosion from deforestation, and pollution from oil and chemical spills. The effects from the degradation of these waters are widespread, inflicting damage on the natural economy, the environment, and local peoples. This situation has impacted the biodiversity, and invariably the livelihoods of the people, thus aggravating food insecurity in the area. This is critical especially when viewed against the backdrop that pollution impacts on livelihoods and biodiversity are felt mainly by people in rural riparian communities. The people whose principal vocation is artisanal fishing, are adversely affected by the rapidly declining fisheries and other effects of habitat degradation. This research is proposed to expound the impact of environmental degradation on the biodiversity of aquatic and riparian communities in an oil polluted water body (Bodo river in Ogoni land, Nigeria) and a seawage contaminated water (Volta river in Ghana), and their restoration adopting a community-based participatory approach. In Nigeria, the oiling and the defoliation of mangrove swamps along Ogoni littoral communities and the reluctance of the oil companies that are liable, to clean up and remediate the environment has left the impacted ecosystems to the slow process of natural recovery. This process is usually not completed before recurrent spills occur in the same environment. The adverse effect on the livelihoods of the affected communities, and other effects of habitat degradation, call for urgent mangrove ecosystem restoration. Also, incessant discharge of seawage and other organic matter in Volta River has resulted in hyper-eutrophication, limited flow, turbidity, organic pollution and the resulting increased emission of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. These have serious consequences for aquatic life, human health and commerce.
Significance of the Research
The rural poor are the most adversely affected group in devastated environment because of loss of livelihoods. The restoration of the mangroves and organically polluted river, which are the thrusts of the project, would engender recolonization of endemic fauna, especially those species that serve as food for man and other animals. Sustenance of swamp fisheries, which provides a major income generation source of the people, will be achieved. Furthermore, biodiversity will be developed, protected and sustained. This is critical because, 60% of the fishes of the Gulf of Guinea breed in the mangroves of the Niger Delta. The project will serve as a model for the restoration of the vast mangroves of the Niger Delta, and organically polluted water bodies.
- Assessment of the environmental and socio-economic impact of polluted waters using the two sites as case studies.
- The development of cheap low-tech remediation techniques for the restoration of the devastated environments.
- Training the indigenous rural dwellers on the basic techniques of remediation and recovery of oil impacted mangroves, using researcher-community interface approach.
Stakeholders in the various areas will be identified. Subsequently, preliminary consultative meetings will be held with the stakeholders adopting the focused-group discussion approach. This will precede the field studies.
Field studies will have two components as follows:
- Impact assessment
- Reforestation programme.
These shall comprise of Environmental Impact assessment (EIA) and Socio-economic Impact Assessment (SIA) studies. EIA will involve: Vegetation studies, infauna, physico-chemistry of the interstitial waters, sediment analysis, microbiological studies, etc. These will provide information on the remedial approach to adopt, ie biostimulation or bioaugmentation. SIA studies will employ the following strategies: administration of structured questionnaires, group discussion/interviews, observations, etc.
Reforestation and Water reclamation
The first step would be to identify the local programme participants, who will constitute the, Forest Restoration and Conservation Committee (MRCC) The field activities shall include: establishment of a one hectare pilot plot; treatment of the plot (sediment tillage, organic fertilizer application); post-treatment evaluation tests; nursery preparation and transplanting; post-planting evaluation. Appropriate training methodologies will be applied at all stages of the training programme to educate the volunteers on the various aspects of the project.
- Provision of useful information for environmental and conservation managers, industries, scientists, etc
- Provision of strategies for sustainable exploitation of natural resources
- To make available information on alternative or novel livelihoods for rural communities, especially the women
- Provision of critical information needed for planning and formulation of environmental protection policies.