PP-FOR: Towards Jointly Monitoring Amazon Ecosystems and Biodiversity by PPBio and RAINFOR

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Geography


We want to develop an integrated network of permanent plots in Brazil that can monitor forest biodiversity and carbon fluxes through the 21st century in which its natural systems will be increasingly stressed and challenged by climate change. This project will take an important step towards this ambitious goal.

Amazonia is vast, so conducting even basic research is challenging. Monitoring ecosystems here requires scientific leadership, vision, and large networks in which researchers apply standardised techniques on-the-ground at many locations. Training must be integrated into the research process to create capacity and assure long-term continuity of monitoring. This project will build on the successes of the pan-Amazon forest monitoring network (RAINFOR- Rede Amazônica de Inventários Florestais- led by Phillips) by linking with the leading pan-Brazilian biodiversity monitoring network (PPBio).
RAINFOR works with 400 permanent plots and has made several major scientific discoveries in Amazonia and developed unique software ("ForestPlots.net") to help tropical partners analyse plot data. But due to poor plot coverage in Brazil, RAINFOR cannot yet provide good estimates of forest carbon balance and dynamics fluxes in Brazil. Meanwhile, PPBio has developed a unique biodiversity assessment protocol and applied it across Brazil with more than 30 institutional partners. However few plots - almost all from one site - have been re-measured for vegetation change.
The proposal therefore takes a step towards addressing the needs of both partners. Together we will (1) share techniques and train local participants, (2) recensus 30 PPBio plots in a huge spatial gap, and (3) train young scientists to process, share, and analyse the data using the global protocols of ForestPlots.net.

In detail, we plan to:
1. Conduct a hands-on field course to prepare teams to conduct forest monitoring. This will be based in a rural community where PPBio has already invested in plots. The course will teach skills for plant collection, identification and measurement. Young rural community participants will work with ecologists from Brazil and UK. This provides an opportunity to experiment with forest monitoring - sharing protocols, identifying capacities and leaders, and training in technical data collection skills. Key participants will also be involved in the main fieldwork phase (activity 2), and in the data management and analysis workshop (activity 3), with the project helping provide marginalised rural people with new skills.
2. Remeasure 30 plots along the BR-319 road from Manaus to Porto Velho. BR-319 cuts an 850km transect through the least known forests in Amazonia, a true 'black hole' for biogeochemical and biodiversity science. PPBio has established a series of 111 plots along this road. This project will undertake the first recensuses of plots along this transect, providing the first information on forest dynamics and carbon fluxes from the heart of Brazil's Amazon.
3. Joint workshop to train participants in data management and analysis. We will use ForestPlots.net to help partners manage and analyse information from their plots. The workshop will include scientists, students, and rural people from Amazonian Brazil, lasting 8 days plus one rest day. Biodiversity and forest dynamics data will be integrated into ForestPlots.net, to ensure that PPBio data are carefully checked and comparable internationally. Analysis will involve training in the calculations of carbon stock, carbon balance, vegetation dynamics, biodiversity, and interpreting the rich information on useful Amazon forest species within ForestPlots.net, using an R-package which RAINFOR has developed with NERC support. In turn, participants will feedback and educate the RAINFOR/ForestPlots.net team to determine specific user requirements to make information in the future more accessible, interpretable, and useful for forest researchers, forest dwellers, and forest users.

Planned Impact

Brazil is committed to monitor its biodiversity and consequent ecosystem services as part of the Biodiversity Convention, and PPBio is intended to help address this need. However, given the country's huge size and biological and social challenges, PPBio is still focused on establishing baseline states for biodiversity and ecosystem function. The PP-FOR partnership thus accelerates the rate at which our Brazilian partners can respond to national needs, by helping PPBio to monitor a wider sector of their many installed plots.

Furthermore, we will implement this together by helping Amazonian rural people and researchers distant from the centres of Manaus and Belém where Amazon science is concentrated, limiting national capacity for forest monitoring which depends on long-term local work. By raising the capacity of rural communities and local research/education institutions, UK funds will help (1) increase the numbers of less advantaged Brazilians who can obtain and interact with biodiversity and carbon dynamics data; and (2) provide some economic alternatives and incentives for young members of these rural communities to continue their training.


10 25 50
Description Through this grant we have 1. Developed a hands-on field course and protocols to prepare field teams to conduct forest monitoring. This includes skills for plant collection, identification and measurement, with young rural community participants working with ecologists from Brazil and UK. 2 Developed an unprecedented remeasurement camapign for some of the most remote forests in the Amazon, with 25 plots along the BR-319 through the Amazon 'black hole' for biogeochemical and biodiversity science - the first information on forest dynamics and carbon fluxes from the heart of Brazil's Amazon. 3. Developed training materials for data management and analysis. We used ForestPlots.net to help partners manage and analyse information from their plots, integrating biodiversity and forest dynamics data, and with training in the calculations of carbon stock, carbon balance, vegetation dynamics, biodiversity within ForestPlots.net, using an R-package which RAINFOR has developed with NERC support.
Exploitation Route In several ways. For example 1. Some of those trained in our courses are using their improved technical abilities in important applied research, including as part of the BR-319 paving environmental impact assessment. 2. The training course has been adapted and already has been delivered also in Amazonian Peru (Iquitos) to a similar mixed audience of practitioners, researchers, local residents, and students. 3. the FT-NIR technique for accelerating identification of Amazon plant species is being trialled in a follow-up project (PhD student Carla Long) 4. Individual plot dynamics are being analysed in a follow-up project (PhD student Thaiane Sousa) to assess carbon responses to the 2015-16 El Nino drought, using unique on-the-ground field data from the heart of the Amazon.
Sectors Environment,Transport

URL https://jecologyblog.com/2020/09/02/editors-choice-volume-108-issue-5/
Description Capacitation for Amazon environmental impact assessments of highly skilled personnel during our courses and field work
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The field assistants trained within this project to accurately identify tree species and measure biomass, carbon, growth, and mortality in permanent plots in the Amazon, are now being called to work in other applied research activities. This includes the environmental impact assessment for repaving BR319 (for which they have special knowledge, having been trained in precisely this remote and complex environment), as well as and monitoring of vegetation in other PPBio sites. These impacts are ongoing, with the road EIA in development and its uptake in terms of improved environmental sustainability a long-term process that is subject to external factors.
Amount R$ 20,000 (BRL)
Organisation National Institute of Amazonian Research 
Sector Public
Country Brazil
Start 04/2017 
End 05/2021
Amount R$ 20,000 (BRL)
Organisation National Institute of Amazonian Research 
Sector Public
Country Brazil
Start 11/2015 
End 11/2019
Description NERC, additional funding to substitute for nonpayment to partner from FAPESP
Amount £25,000 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 12/2017
Description The other side of tropical forest drought: Do shallow water table regions of Amazonia act as large-scale hydrologic refugia from drought?
Amount $1,200,000 (USD)
Organisation National Science Foundation (NSF) 
Sector Public
Country United States
Title Long-term records of growth, mortality, biodiversity, and climate sensitiity of Amazon trees in the remote Purus-Madeira interfluve region 
Description Long-term records of growth, mortality, biodiversity, and climate sensitiity of Amazon trees in the remote Purus-Madeira interfluve region: developed by integrating existing PPBio plots with the RAINFOR methodology, and managing these data in the internet-enabled facility ForestPlots.net, thrpugh which data can be stored, curated, shared, and analysed 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact These data and associated techniques are in the first instance available to the lead field person in our project, Thaine Sousa, who is now starting a PhD at INPA entitled "INTERAÇÕES AMBIENTAIS E EFEITO DE SECAS SEVERAS NA DINÂMICA DA FLORESTA AO LONGO DO INTERFLÚVIO PURUS-MADEIRA". This is long-term research that will in time (1) improve understanding of the impacts of climate-change related droughts on the heart of the Amazon forest, and will (2) support our aim of enhancing the Brazil-led and particularly the Amazon-led research capacity and activity in this important area for Brazilian science and society. 
URL https://www.forestplots.net/pt
Title Near-infrared spectroscopy (FT-NIR) to accelerate identification of Amazonian tree species 
Description Carla Long is working on the spectral readings of vouchers from the BR319 plots to derive a model to predict functional traits, and the functional composition of that region. The method was originally developed by Carla with Flavia Costa and team and is being refined and trialled on a massive scale by the PP-FOR project. The project permitted FTNIR spectral readings for almost all individuals from BR319 plots, with four readings of leaves are taken per voucher (abaxial and adaxial surfaces of two leaves) and two readings per branch section. These readings will be compared to a NIR library that is being built with samples from INPA herbarium, to help check identifications provided by parataxonomists and obtain first Ids for samples that could not be identified by them. Carla Lang is processing the spectral readings for her PhD thesis. 
Type Of Material Biological samples 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Impact is ongoing: Precise identification of plant species requires a high level of knowledge by taxonomists and presence of reproductive material which is a major limitation in Amazonia (with ca. 15,000 tree species!) and especially for those working with seedlings and juveniles, which differ from adults and lack flowers or fruits. The scale of work permitted by PPFOR in remote locations in Amazonia is enabling an unprecedented trial of the effectiveness of the FTNIR technique: From March to November 2017, we visually identified and made spectral readings of plant samples collected during the previous activities of PPFOR in 2015 and 2016. A skilled parabotanist (Lorena M. Rincón) provided botanical identifications, and a laboratory technician conducted the spectral readings. During 2015 and 2016, we have collected around 8,000 botanical samples. From these, around 4,500 had been identified to the Family level before, and 3,276 were identified to the Family level by Lorena in this period. She also identified to species level ~6.600 individuals, of all families except 8 (she is working on those now, funded by Flavia Costa). She reviewed all the previous identifications of samples belonging to these families that have been provided to old collections (previous to PPFOR) in the same plots. All the identifications have been typed to the form used by ForestPlots.net to update taxonomic information (taxonplotdump). We have uploaded these to the database, where they provide (a) greatly improved level of identification for multiple scientific applications of these permanent plots, and (b) a reference against which to evaluate FTNIR 
URL https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2017.09.003
Title 25 * 1-ha plots in remote forests of the Purus-Madeira interfluve 
Description Over 1.5 months in 2016 and again in 2017, our team completed recensus of 25 extremely remote 1-ha long-term plots in the research area. This dataset consists of plots established by our PPBio partners and in intact forest, recensused using standardised protocols and with data actively managed at ForestPlots.net. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The work is being taken up by PhD student Thaiane Sousa, as part of her PhD work starting now at INSTITUTO NACIONAL DE PESQUISAS DA AMAZÔNIA - INPA PROGRAMA DE PÓS-GRADUAÇÃO EM BIOLOGIA (ECOLOGIA). This work is supervised by the Brazilian PPFOR project lead Flávia Regina Capellotto Costa. 
URL http://www.forestplots.net/pt
Title ForestPlots.net 
Description It is ALL FOUR of the options given above (for which I had to choose one) ForestPlots.net provides a unique place for everyone who wants to measure, monitor, and understand the world's forests, and especially the tropical forests. Currently Forest Plots.net tracks more than 1,500 forest plots in 35 countries, recording the work of more than 1,000 people. ForestPlots.net aims to promote science synergies across countries and continents, and enable partners to access, analyse and manage the information from their long-term plots. ForestPlots.net aims to help forest scientists and forest people worldwide, especially in tropical countries. ForestPlots.net includes a web application with a modular design. The front end was developed using Microsoft.net framework and it interacts with a Microsoft SQL server database. The underlying database is a relational database which utilizes more than 50 tables to store plot and individual tree information. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2011 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact ForestPlots.net has supported more than 100 research outputs and research products http://www.forestplots.net/en/products http://www.forestplots.net/en/resources ForestPlots.net provides multiple database and analytical tools used by forest researchers and practitioners, especially in the UK and South America. With Newton support (BC Institutional Links and NERC Newton Fund) during 2016, 2017, and 2018 we are extending its use to partners in Amazonas (Brazil), Mato Grosso (Brazil) and to partners in Indonesia. As of 2018, Google Analytics shows there has already been increased uptake in Brazil, where the proportion of active users of ForestPlots has more than doubled from 7 to 15% of all users, and where the number of active sessions analysing Amazon forest data is now ca. 100 per month. 
URL http://www.forestplots.net/
Description Multiple collaborations enabled via ForestPlots.net 
Organisation Universities UK International
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Via ForestPlots.net we are entering into dozens of new collaborations each year, mostly academic exchanges of data, skills, training, and with increasing research outputs as well as some support for science policy. These are detailed here where they are updated regularly http://www.forestplots.net/en/join-forestplots/research-projects ForestPlots.net is global-leading research infrastructure hosted at the University of Leeds. The partnerships are worldwide, and powering global collaborations including much support for developing country scientists. This particular NERC-funded project has contributed to the development of the shared ForestPlots.net resource and particularly to the successful networking with our many partners in South America.
Collaborator Contribution ForestPlots.net is led from the University of Leeds by Professor Oliver Phillips and colleagues, but it exists as a collective effort whose benefits and contributions are widely shared. Partners contribute immensely valuable field data from the tropics, and ideas for projects which they are now leading. They also contribute funded work (ie ForestPlots.net grows now more due to NON-UK funded research than to UK-funded research). UK funding has therefore acted as a multiplier.
Impact There are too many to list and the outputs increase month-on-month. Outputs are reported on the ForestPlots website, eg http://www.forestplots.net/en/join-forestplots/research-projects http://www.forestplots.net/en/publications
Start Year 2016
Description PP-BIO and INPA 
Organisation National Center for Scientific Research (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique CNRS)
Department IN2P3-Lyon
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution core partners to grant - sharing data, data management and analysis protocols, training, fieldwork, working towards joiunt pubs. etc.
Collaborator Contribution core partners to grant - sharing data, data management and analysis protocols, training, fieldwork, working towards joint pubs. etc.
Impact project is in progress. training workshop (field) together in 2015 training workshop (lab, data management/analysis) planned together in 2016
Start Year 2015
Description PPBio-RAINFOR: Workshop de gerenciamento e análise de dados de vegetação, Manaus, Brazil 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The workshop had the participation of 21 people from 10 Amazonian institutions spread in 6 Brazilian states (Acre, Amazonas, Pará, Amapá, Roraima and Rondonia). These were mostly linked to PPBio regional offices, and some were linked to other projects working on the Amazon (BDFFP, PELD). A few were students. The work helped to integrate PPBio and RAINFOR through the database, fostered a deep discussion on protocols and how to do calculations over different sampling strategies, and increased the engagement and input of data from remote partners.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.rainfor.org/en/project/training