PANTROP-Biodiversity and recovery of forest in tropical landscapes

Tropical forests are global hot spots of biodiversity, play key roles in the global carbon and water cycle and deliver crucial ecosystem services but are threatened by human-induced climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss.

In his ERC research PANTROP, Lourens Poorter and his team focus on forests that regrow after complete forest removal for agriculture (so called secondary forests), because they cover large areas, have great potential to recover biodiversity and carbon, and are the basis for ecosystem restoration. The key challenge is to understand and predict forest resilience: when, and under what conditions are regrowing forests able to recover and have the same quality and functioning as old-growth forests?

This study aims to understand and predict the resilience of tropical forests to human-driven disturbance by analysing the effects of continent and biogeography, climate, landscape, and biodiversity on forest recovery rate. The researchers will conduct controlled experiments on three continents (Neotropics, Africa, and Australia) in climatically dry and wet forest types to assess long-term resilience by expanding a unique Neotropical network of 60 sites to the pantropics. The team also will analyse the role of the landscape on forest recovery by doing a natural experiment along forest cover gradients. And they try to understand how different kinds of diversity affect succession and ecosystem functioning through a biodiversity removal experiment.

The study addresses key questions in ecology and advances the understanding how human-driven climate change, landscape degradation, and biodiversity loss affect forest resilience and succession. The insights can be applied to reduce human impacts on tropical forests, design resilient and multifunctional tropical landscapes, and design effective forest restoration strategies.

For detailed information (projects, study sites, publications etc): visit the homepage of PANTROP