The COBECORE project led by Koen Hufkens and Hans Verbeeck (Ghent University, Belgium) came to a close after a no-cost extension. The COBECORE project aimed to establish baseline measurements necessary for long-term (retrospective) ecological and climatological research through the recovery and valorisation of unexplored historical data collected in the Congo Basin by Belgian scientists during the colonial period. The project generated three main data streams through the completion of its four objectives: (1) data recovery of the historical climate record for the central Congo basin; (2) historic metrics of forest structure through digitization of aerial photographs; (3) data recovery of historic leaf traits from herbarium specimens; and (4) data integration and dissemination.
Overall COBECORE contributed to the digital accessibility of the analog archives of the Institut National pour l’Etude Agronomique du Congo Belge (INEAC), in addition to extracting eco-physiologically relevant plant traits from historical herbarium specimens. The COBECORE project implemented state-of-the-art digitization techniques, including machine learning, citizen science and several European collaborations, resulting in practical insights for future digitization projects, outreach for secondary schools and public interest, and numerous publications in A1 scientific journals. The data recovered during COBECORE continues to inspire new research opportunities and remains a valuable reference for contemporary research. We hope to continue working on these and related topics in the future.