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Valorisation of the Tervuren xylarium for rainforest ecology: investigation of wood collections to underpin REDD+ and other new mechnisms for tropical forest conservation (XYLAREDD)

Research project AG/LL/165 (Research action AG)

Persons :

  • Dr.  BEECKMAN Hans - Royal Museum for Central Africa ()
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/6/2012-31/5/2015
  • Dr.  DESSEIN Steven - National Botanic Garden of Belgium ()
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/6/2012-31/5/2015
  • Prof. dr.  STOFFELEN Piet - National Botanic Garden of Belgium ()
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/6/2012-31/5/2015

Description :

The Xylarium of the Royal Museum for Central Africa ranks among the most important wood collections in the world and is often solicited to study issues linked to forest dynamics and conservation. However the scientific value of this collection has to be increased to assure an efficient delivering of information that is precise and relevant to underpin up to date forest management.
Indeed, the tropical forests and the Congo Basin rainforests in particular are in the focus of international debates on climate change, biodiversity conservation and carbon markets. Several international governmental mechanisms and certification systems have been elaborated that should contribute to the conservation of the tropical forests.

(1) The REDD+ mechanism aims at reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries. Developing countries should get financial compensations for conserving forests and capturing atmospheric carbon in forest ecosystems. Precise data on carbon stocks in different types of forests are still lacking and are hindering a smooth application of REDD+.
(2) Several law enforcement mechanisms are being established that should help protecting forests and endangered tree species from illegal logging. The European Union created the FLEGT regulation (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) that should allow only timber verified as legal to the European markets. A recent amendment to the American Lacey Act should also address illegal logging. The international CITES convention that restricts the international trade in endangered species is more and more dealing with timber issues. Reliable identification of the wood species is a general key factor for a sound application of these enforcement mechanisms.
(3) The same is true for wood that is certified “sustainable” against an internationally recognized standard (FSC, PEFC, MTCS,...).

Research of Xylarium samples is of major importance to resolve the uncertainty concerning the botanical identification of a number of the wood samples. At the same time, many of the xylarium samples are not yet formally coded following the criteria of the International Association of Wood Anatomists and good quality images are lacking to develop identification keys and training material. Finally a protocol should be developed to extract from the xylarium precise information on wood density and its variability.

The proposed research methodology involves the verification of the botanical identification of xylarium samples that are backed by voucher specimens in the herbarium of the National Botanic Garden. Priority will be given to material from the MAB reserves of the Congo Basin, as these reserves are particularly important for research linked to REDD+. 2D and 3D wood images will be generated to develop identification keys and to feed models on carbon content of different species and forest types.

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