£9·6m joint UK-Brazilian initiative to investigate effect of tropical forest degradation
19 June 2012
In the run up to Rio+20, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) today announce a major £9·6m investment to investigate how changes to tropical forests affect biodiversity, ecosystem services and the climate.
Evidence unearthed during the project will be used to help sustainably manage forests for logging and palm oil production, protect endangered species, and help mitigate climate change.
The initiative is the next phase in a growing partnership between NERC and FAPESP.
The scheme also supports the overarching aim of the Rio+20 summit - starting on 20 June 2012 - to provide a blueprint for global sustainable development.
NERC is investing £8m, £6·4m of which will support research in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo and builds on an existing collaboration with the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project, which is managed as part of the Royal Society's South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP). The rest - £1·6m - will back parallel studies in Brazil, with FAPESP contributing the equivalent of £1·6m.
"This collaboration between NERC and FAPESP will mean the UK's and Brazil's top scientists can work together to understand globally-important Brazilian ecosystems and compare research findings between two contrasting tropical regions - Brazil and Malaysia," explains Professor Duncan Wingham, Chief Executive of NERC.
"It is fitting to announce this collaboration for advanced environmental research on the eve of Rio+20. The research to be supported will inform policy decisions of governments, forest management and the agro-forestry industry. For Brazil and for the UN REDD+ programme biodiversity conservation and the understanding and adequate management of forest carbon stocks are key issues," says Professor Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, Scientific Director of FAPESP.
Tropical forests are hotspots of biodiversity and provide ecosystem services such as clean water and air, medicines and food, as well as absorbing carbon dioxide. These services extend beyond the countries hosting forests, benefiting people across the world.
But many forests, like those in South East Asia and Brazil, are increasingly under threat from unsustainable logging and conversion to agricultural land uses. This is leading to biodiversity loss and deterioration of ecosystem services.
"Despite this, very little is known about the relationships between biodiversity and the ecosystem processes that underpin these vital services, or how these processes change through biodiversity loss," says Professor Wingham.
Scientists plan to find out how logging, deforestation and forest fragmentation change the functioning of tropical rainforests.
"It's vital we find out what levels of biodiversity we must have in order to provide the ecosystem services that society needs. Research in both Brazil and Malaysia will help us compare these issues in contrasting locations, so we can develop forest management policies that can be applied to different types of forest," says Professor Ken Norris from the University of Reading, NERC's biodiversity theme leader.
The NERC programme is called Biodiversity & Ecosystem Processes in Human Modified Tropical Forests.
NERC Press Office
Natural Environment Research Council
Polaris House, North Star Avenue
Swindon, SN2 1EU
Tel: 01793 411561
Mob: 07917 557215
Maria da Graça S Mascarenhas
FAPESP Press Office
Luiz Fernando Cunha
FAPESP Press Office
Imperial College London
Professor Ken Norris
University of Reading
Tel: 0118 378 6535
Mob: 07983 528414
Professor Duncan Wingham
Natural Environment Research Council
Tel: 01793 442562
1. NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing world-class research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. It coordinates some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on earth, and much more. NERC receives around £300m a year from the government's science budget, which it uses to fund independent research and training in universities and its own research centres.
2. São Paulo Research Foundation - FAPESP - is an independent public foundation with the mission to foster research and the scientific and technological development of the State of São Paulo.
3. The primary sponsor of the SAFE Project is the Sime Darby Foundation, providing core support for establishing the project, building the field infrastructure, and supporting a large team of field staff. Funding from the Sime Darby Foundation began in 2010 and will continue for a ten-year period. A number of other key academic, government and industrial organisations in the UK and Malaysia also support the SAFE Project, namely Benta Wawasan, Yayasan Sabah (The Sabah Foundation), Sabah Forestry Department, the Royal Society South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEEARP) and Imperial College London.
Press release: 15/12
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