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Sustainability of tropical forest biodiversity and services under climate and human pressure (BIOSERF)

Research project SD/AR/03A (Research action SD)


Persons :

  • Dr.  HAMBUCKERS Alain - Université de Liège (ULG)
    Coordinator of the project
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/4/2011-31/3/2015
  • Dr.  DENDONCKER Nicolas - Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix (FUNDP)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/4/2011-31/3/2015
  • Dr.  BEUDELS Roseline - Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences ()
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/4/2011-31/3/2015
  • Dr.  VAN DAMME Patrick - Universiteit Gent (RUG)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/4/2011-31/3/2015
  • Prof. dr.  FRANCOIS Louis - Université de Liège (ULG)
    Financed belgian partner
    Duration: 1/4/2011-31/3/2015

Description :

Nowadays, this is established that tropical forests are disappearing or become degraded at worrying rates. The main threat for these forests is deforestation. Yet, more than wood,, forest ecosystems provide many other resources of prime importance to human populations (the so-called ecosystem services or ES). Agroforestry, hunting, collection of plant products, living places, pure water and clean air contribute a lot to human well-being and livelihood. The excessive consumption of ES represents however an additional major threat to forest survival owing to shifts in traditional practices. Indeed, socio-economical conditions are changing as a result of population increase, demand for forest products by cities (bushmeat, ivory, medicinal plants, etc.), road constructions to facilitate trade, etc. These changes induce an increased pressure on the forest. Canopy cover becomes fragmented; soils lose their fertility; animal and plant density and diversity decrease. These conditions might ultimately lead to the disappearance of some ES and to the rarefaction of others beyond a threshold under which they can no longer regenerate. The threads associated with climate changes also have to be considered.

The question arises to know whether it is possible to build predictions on the optimal evolution of a forest system under human pressure to preserve biodiversity and human well-being. To answer such a question, one has to consider, on the one hand forest growth and its regeneration and, on the other hand, the use of the forest by man. Both these aspects will be investigated in the project field studies. Data collected will be used to feed mathematical models.

The project will focus on the lowest latitude zone of the Congo Basin, on the WWF Lake Tele – Lake Tumba Landscape, the largest area of swamp and flooded forest in Africa, and more specifically on the DR Congo part of the Landscape, spreading over ca.78,972 km² in the Equateur Province. The huge biological value of the Lake Tumba Landscape is widely recognized. WWF Belgium, WWF Congo, the Belgian Development Agency, and CARPE (Central African Regional Program for the Environment) supported by USAID (United States Agency for International Development), finance and manage biodiversity conservation, community-based development and environmental research programs in the region. The DRC’s authorities are collaborating with the international NGOs and Development Agencies on land use planning. This has so far resulted in the delimitation of protection areas, community-based natural resource management areas, and extractive resource zones. The Landscape contains various habitats ranging from terra firme and swamp forests to grasslands, savannahs and prairies along the Congo River and its numerous tributaries. Partial biodiversity surveys have taken place in the last few years but much remains to do especially at the vegetation/plant use level. Among the large mammals, the presence of many primate species has been reported (among which the bonobo), but also of the forest elephant, the African forest buffalo, the bushpig and the leopard. Huge and increasing human pressure is threatening the sustainability of the ecosystems through ill-adapted practices, including slash-and-burn or shifting cultivation, forest product harvesting and commercial fishing and hunting (primate, crocodile, bushpig, elephant for ivory).

Project description

 Objectives
The general objectives of the project are to explore the evolution of the socio-ecological system, with a focus on ecosystem services and to assess their sustainability in an area of evergreen tropical forest under increasing human pressure and climate change. To reach these objectives, we will use mathematical models. The project will integrate two spatial-dynamic models, the CARAIB dynamic vegetation model and a spatial agent-based model The models will be adapted to the particularities of the tropical forest ecosystem (main traits, plant autoecology and functional ecology) and to the local human community’s situation (demography, land use, ecosystem services, ethnobotany). The upgraded models will be fed with locally gathered data on plant-animal interactions, on human-nature interaction and on human behaviours related to land use. The originality of the research will be the combination of social, environmental and economical information for a synthetic/holistic and anthropocentric approach towards a sustainable use of ecosystem services.

The specific objectives of the project are

Study the physical and biological processes that govern the natural regeneration of the forest ecosystem, especially the dispersal pattern of selected tree species, which (partially) depends on the animal community (frugivore vertebrates and particularly primates). This dispersal capacity becomes limited if hunting increases (thus reducing natural disperser numbers), if the habitats of the dispersers are/become fragmented or if the collection of diaspores is too intensive.

• Identify and evaluate quantitatively some ecosystem services currently provided by the forest to the local human communities, under the present socio-economic context. The selection of ES to be studied will be made on the basis of cartography including participatory GIS and socio-economic survey among stakeholders.

• Explore, with the use of the coupled DVM-ABM model, possible scenarios for the future evolution of the forest ES over the whole area covered by the WWF Lake Tele – Lake Tumba Landscape, under different climate, demographic and socio-economic scenarios of change, specifically developed for this area. A sustainability assessment will be conducted for each of these scenarios.

 Methodology
To reach these objectives, we will use mathematical models. The project will integrate two spatial-dynamic models, the CARAIB dynamic vegetation model and a spatial agent-based model The models will be adapted to the particularities of the tropical forest ecosystem (main traits, plant autoecology and functional ecology) and to the local human community’s situation (demography, land use, ecosystem services, ethnobotany). The upgraded models will be fed with locally gathered data on plant-animal interactions, on human-nature interaction and on human behaviours related to land use. The originality of the research will be the combination of social, environmental and economical information for a synthetic/holistic and anthropocentric approach towards a sustainable use of ecosystem services.

 Interaction between the different partners
Interactions between partners are summarized in Fig. 1. The team coordinating each work package is the principal investigator; the researches are closely integrated by the directly interacting teams.

 Link International Programmes (FACULTATIVE)

 Expected results and/or Products

WP1: Annotated lists of useful species; Priority ranking of useful species; List of ecosystem services and their socio-economic evaluation; stakeholder typology and demographic data including population dynamics; current (and expected future) status of forest/ES

WP2 Seed production, growth and density data for five selected tree species; improved dynamic vegetation model

WP3 Dispersal speeds and distances (dispersal kernel) of the five tree species , improved DVM

WP4 Units for ES valuation; ES maps for the present, coupling of DVM and ABM

WP5 Maps of land use; biophysical parameters; pressure on biodiversity and ES for selected future time slices (2020, 2030, 2040, 2050)

WP6 Report with the conclusions of the workshop to be distributed to local NGOs, local administrations, and Belgian development cooperation services, etc.

For dissemination, a web-based platform will be established, from which a network of databases will run cataloguing the project’s progress to ensure effective dissemination of information within and beyond the network of partners. It is also envisaged to make the platform available for the general public.
Press coverage through the major trade press and the production of publications will ensure that the project will have continuous high visibility. Research results will be published in leading international peer-reviewed journals in appropriate fields. Findings will also be presented at international meetings, such as ISHS and ATBC meetings, and appropriate ecosystem services forums.
More specifically, the project will contract experts in video/film documentary making in order to produce a number of movies that would highlight the project’s activities and findings, and could be used to disseminate the project’s findings to the public at large.
Throughout the course of the project, the participants will make use of forums such as the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute and various regional networks, including UTFANET (Under-utilised Tropical Fruits in Asia Network), WAFNET (West African Tropical and Subtropical Fruits Network) and other sub-networks dealing with indigenous species, together with worldwide ES networks/platforms (such as ESP, www.es-partnership.com) for sharing and dissemination of information.

Partners

 Activities

Ulg-ENV: Department of environmental science – Behavioural biology unit of the University of Liège
This unit focuses on behavioral ecology of vertebrates in natural and experimental systems. Studies aim to define the adaptative value of behaviour, at individual, population and species scales, this theme being considered in the framework of evolution and biodiversity theories. The unit is composed of three laboratories (Fish and amphibian ethology, Fish demography and hydroecology, Animal and human evolution) and of the Primatology research group (PRG). At first, dealing mostly with mechanisms implied in habitat selection, (feeding ecology, home range variation), PRG researches are now concentrated on primate behaviour and conservation in human disturbed environment and to the contribution of the non-human primates to forest regeneration.

FUNDP: Department of Geography of the University of Namur
This laboratory is mainly implicated in the development of multi-agent models for land use applications. These models are combined with building scenario exploring the responses of individuals and society to processes inducing future environmental changes. The participatory approach is used with direct involvement since the early stages of the projects. Then it becomes possible to evaluate the effects of changes at landscape level on ecosystem services and to propose quantified solutions of sustainable development.

Ulg-UMCCB: Climate and biogeochemical cycle modelling unit of the University of Liège
Besides collaborating to international campaigns for atmospheric CO2 monitoring, the unit develops models simulating rock weathering, carbon cycle with emphasis on vegetation dynamics and paleoclimates. The models are applied to problems concerning the past (paleo-vegetation reconstruction, influence of vegetation on climate) or to problems of the present (influence of future climates on vegetation distribution, on primary production, on fire, etc.).

Ugent: Laboratory for tropical and subtropical agronomy and ethnobotany of the University of Gent
The research interests of the team cover a wide range of agronomic and socio-economic topics in tropical and subtropical regions: agro-ecophysiology of plants in (semi-)arid areas, agrobiodiversity, ethnobotany, domestication and new crop development, sustainable agricultural systems, water managements, market integration of small-scale farmers in developing countries - value chain analysis. They focus on applied research that bridges the gap between academic research and its application by governments, NGOs, and other actors in rural development in tropical and subtropical countries.

RBINS: Conservation biology unit of the Royal Belgian institute of natural sciences
The unit conducts researches of population biology, ecology, ethology, and conservation biology. The studies have generated methodologies suitable to the analysis and the mitigation of biological extinction risks, according to schemes combining detection and reversal of degradation, highlighting of simplification, regression or fragmentation of plant or animal communities.

 Contact Information

Ulg-ENV : Department of environmental science – Behavioural biology unit of the University of Liège
Alain HAMBUCKERS, Chef de travaux
Quai Van Beneden 22, 4020 Liège
Phone: 04 366 50 72
Fax: 04 366 51 13
E-mail: alain.hambuckers@ulg.ac.be

FUNDP : Department of Geography of the University of Namur
Nicolas Dendoncker, Chargé de cours
61 rue de Bruxelles, FUNDP, Namur, Belgium
Phone: 081/724478
Fax: 081/724471
E-mail: nicolas.dendoncker@fundp.ac.be

Ulg-UMCCB : Climate and biogeochemical cycle modelling unit of the University of Liège
Louis FRANCOIS, Chargé de cours
UMCCB, Institut d’Astrophysique et Géophysique, Université de Liège, Bât. B5c, 17, Allée du Six Août, 4000 Liège
Phone: 04 366 9776
Fax: 04 366 9711
E-mail: Louis.Francois@ulg.ac.be

Ugent : Laboratory for tropical and subtropical agronomy and ethnobotany of the University of Gent
Patrick VAN DAMME, Voltijds hoofddocent
Fac. Bio-ingenieurswetenschappen, Coupure Links 653, 9000 Gent
Phone: 09 264 60 87
Fax: 09 264 62 41
E-mail: Patrick.VanDamme@Ugent.be

RBINS : Conservation biology unit of the Royal Belgian institute of natural sciences
Roseline C. BEUDELS – JAMAR, Chef de travaux
29 Rue Vautier, 1000 - BRUXELLES
Phone: 02 6274354
Fax:
E-mail: roselihe.beudels@naturalsciences.be


Follow-up Committee

Dr Ir Hans Beeckman, Senior scientist
Royal Museum for Central Africa
Leuvensesteenweg 13, 3080 Tervuren
Phone: 02 769 5 611
Fax: 2 769 56 42
E-mail: hans.beeckman@africamuseum.be

Dr Pierre Defourny, Professeur
UCL
ENGE - Croix du Sud 2, bte 16 à 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve
Phone: 010 47 23 74
Fax:
E-mail: Pierre.Defourny@uclouvain.be

Dr Alain Huart, Expert
Belgian Development Agency
Rue Haute 147 à 1000 Bruxelles
Phone: 02 505 37 00
Fax: 02 502 98 62
E-mail: alain_huart@hotmail.com, alain.huart@btcctb.org

Dr Bila-Isia Inogwabini
WWF DR Congo
14, avenue Sergent Moke, Concession SAFRICAS, Quartier Socimat, Kinshasa / Ngaliema
Phone: + 243 81 650 1766
E-mail: binogwabini@wwfcarpo.org

Dr Thierry Lucas,
United Nations Environmental Program
14 Rue Montoyer, 1000 Brussels
Phone:02 213 30 50
Fax: 02 213 30 51
E-mail: t.lucas@unep.be

Dr Raymond Lumbuenamo, Director
WWF DR Congo
14, avenue Sergent Moke, Concession SAFRICAS, Quartier Socimat, Kinshasa / Ngaliema
E-mail: rlumbuenamo@wwfcarpo.org

Dr Filippo Saracco, Chargé régional
Délégation de l’Union européenne au Congo
Boulevard du 30 juin, Immeuble BCDC, B.P. 2699 - Gombe – Kinshasa
Phone: + 243 81 33 00 126
Fax : + 243 81 555 46 34
E-mail: filippo.saracco@ec.europa.eu

Dr Joseph Smitz, Professeur
Université de Liège
HEC-Ecole de gestion de l'Ulg, Bât. B53 Aquapôle, chemin des Chevreuils 3, 4000 Liège
Phone: 04 366 23 54
Fax : 04 366 23 55
E-mail: j.smitz@ulg.ac.be

Dr François Wakenhut, Head of unit
Commission Européenne – DG Environnement
200 rue de la Loi 1049 Brussels
Phone: 02 299 11 11
Fax : 02 29 69 557
E-mail: francois.wakenhut@ec.europa .eu

Dr Karin Zaunberger, Expert
Commission Européenne – DG Environnement
200 rue de la Loi 1049 Brussels
Phone: 02 296 21 72
Fax : 02 295 05 68
E-mail: karin.zaunberger@ec.europa .eu


Documentation :

Sustainability of tropical forest biodiversity and services under climate and human pressure (BIOSERF) : final report  Hambuckers, A. - Huynen, M-C. - Jamar-Beudels, R.  Brussels : Belgian Scientific Policy, 2015 (SP2637)
[To download

Sustainability of tropical forest biodiversity and services under climate and human pressure (BIOSERF) : annex1  Hambuckers, A. - Huynen, M-C. - Jamar-Beudels, R.  Brussels : Belgian Scientific Policy, 2015 (SP2638)
[To download

Sustainability of tropical forest biodiversity and services under climate and human pressure (BIOSERF) : annex2  Hambuckers, A. - Huynen, M-C. - Jamar-Beudels, R.  Brussels : Belgian Scientific Policy, 2015 (SP2639)
[To download

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