ROBIN, the project to explore the role of biodiversity in climate change mitigation, has ended with a great success. “It was presented in the European Parliament, which makes our effort in aiming for policy impact successful,” Martin Herold says. Quoting the opening address by Kurt Vandenberghe, director of the Unit Climate Action and Resource Efficiency, DG Research & Innovation, “ROBIN is a timely, relevant and exemplary project.”
The ROBIN project is an EU funded project that started in 2011. There were 12 institutions participating in the project, six from Europe and six from Latin America. Several Alterra teams and several university groups of ESG worked together in this project, making ROBIN a concrete and great example of ‘One Wageningen’.
Forests and forest landscapes provide essential ecosystem services such as biodiversity, provision of food, energy, materials, medicines, disease mitigation, water quality and flood control. And, particularly in tropical areas, forests are also important in regulating global carbon budgets and moderating climate change. “For example, there is no successful climate smart development in agriculture in tropical countries possible without considering forests,” Martin Herold says. But they are still being degraded and destroyed at a significant rate. “Therefore, understanding and managing trade-offs between biodiversity, climate change mitigation and other non-carbon ecosystem services is essential to promote human well-being,” Marta Pérez-Soba adds.
Martin Herold, Marielos Peña-Claros and Marta Pérez-Soba showed in a meeting in the European Parliament the new insights and evidence concerning the carbon and non-carbon benefits provided by tropical forest landscapes in Latin America that the EC funded ROBIN project has produced. “We followed a whole-system approach,” Marta Pérez-Soba says, “linking biodiversity to human well-being and policy”. ROBIN showed that enhancing forests carbon stocks is not possible without adequate functioning forest ecosystems. “Plant diversity has a direct effect on carbon stocks and carbon dynamics,” Marielos Peña-Claros adds. “And it acts as an insurance against climate change impacts across large spatio-temporal scales. Therefore, biodiversity must be considered an integral component of policies to reduce the impact of climate change.” The ROBIN project has consequently worked on developing biodiversity proxies that are based on remote sensing and field data.
So restoration and sustainable management of forest landscapes should make better use of biodiversity, to maintain or increase the capacity of tropical forests to absorb and store carbon despite new climate extremes, while responding to the needs of local and global society. Martin Herold: “With our research, and through the science-policy-society dialogue that we started, we can help develop a coherent set of actions across sectors and levels of government to address climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity loss and the maintenance of sustainable tropical forest landscapes.”
ROBIN has shown that the most effective policies are those that improve well-being at a local scale. One ‘unintended consequence’ of the European Parliament day was that ROBIN has now been asked to take on a co-ordinating role in an EC side-event at COP21 in Paris.