NI: FOR-RESTOR - A network for evidence-based tropical FORest RESTORation

Lead Research Organisation: UK Ctr for Ecology & Hydrology fr 011219
Department Name: Atmospheric Chemistry and Effects

Abstract

Regenerating degraded tropical forests is a key approach for mitigating future climate change and restoring essential ecosystem services, including water cycling and biodiversity conservation. The Bonn Challenge sets two key targets: to restore 150 million hectares of degraded lands by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030, with the aim of re-instating ecological integrity alongside human well-being into degraded areas based on the forest and landscape restoration approach. Currently, the policy environment is conducive to restoration as countries have made significant commitments to restoring their forests in order to help meet their obligations under the Paris climate change agreement and the Bonn Challenge directly.

There is significant opportunity for restoring natural forests in tropical Southeast Asia; whilst they have been extensively degraded by logging, fragmentation and industrial Oil Palm cultivation, mature natural forests in SEA have a capacity to store and cycle the largest quantities of above-ground carbon per unit area in the world (Banin et al. 2014; Sullivan et al. 2016), and therefore reinstating natural forests offers substantial ecosystem service benefits if long-term restoration can be achieved (Lewis et al. 2019). However, devising successful forest restoration strategies for tropical forests involves careful, evidence-based decision-making, at various spatial scales and working with multiple stake-holders. To ensure the long-term success of restoration efforts, our project initiates a new multidisciplinary network focussing on regeneration of Southeast Asian (SEA) logged and degraded forests.

Our research will be delivered through two work packages. In work package 1, project partners will provide standardised data unavailable in the literature to deliver a new published synthesis of site-level evidence providing insights into post-restoration ecological processes (carbon accumulation and community dynamics). This work will provide a basis for a sustained long-term restoration experiment network. In work package 2, we host an interdisciplinary workshop which will use the Heart of Borneo project area as a transboundary case study to (i) identify the barriers, constraints and opportunities for forest landscape restoration and (ii) develop an agenda of research and data needs for spatial prioritization for landscape-level restoration These activities will be delivered through interactive engagement between academic and practitioner stakeholders, including key policy-makers, at a workshop in Malaysia, which will contribute to our broader, long-term goal of linking ecological and social science research to policy and practice in restoration decision-making.

The proposed FOR-RESTOR project will be a new collaboration between the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), Universities of Aberdeen, Exeter, Oxford and RSPB in the UK and international partners from Australia, Italy, Sweden, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia & Singapore. The team uniquely brings together expertise in carbon cycling, functional ecology, biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships, conservation genetics, genetic resources and seed systems, ecological restoration, forest landscape restoration and forest science-policy and science-practice interfaces.

Planned Impact

This project will initiate a network of linked research sites where long-term restoration projects have been established in logged or degraded Southeast Asian tropical forests. As well as catalysing new synthetic analyses of data-sets shared across these sites, the network will provide a platform for future research and the delivery of related impact activities. The immediate impact of the project will be new knowledge obtained from meta-analyses across sites, which will be published and then delivered to relevant stakeholders at a conference that brings together academics, forest managers and policy makers annually in the Heart of Borneo project area. Site-level descriptions and meta-data for these sites will be recorded in the Forestoration Global Forest Landscape Restoration Case Study Databank and Atlas, a pan-tropical resource for sharing methods and tools, filling a gap in the information currently available for the Southeast Asia region and stimulating engagement with a broader community of tropical forest restoration ecologists. A workshop will be convened to bring together academic researchers, land managers, conservation practitioners, local communities and government agencies with an interest in the potential for forest landscape restoration in the Heart of Borneo region. At this workshop we will conduct an assessment of the information and research needs required to implement forest landscape restoration within the HoB region, including a demonstration of spatial prioritization approaches. The lessons learned during the workshop will be summarised in a research needs document that will be disseminated through electronic media and on the Heart of Borneo website, as well as a peer-reviewed publication. A policy brief will be prepared to sit alongside the publication and interpret its contents for policy-makers.

Publications

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