Context and objectives
This proposal is situated in the context of the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries program. UN-REDD+ will create a financial value for sustainable forest management actions that enhance carbon storage in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions in a post 2012 climate regime.
These initiatives are of main importance for pristine tropical forests that are degrading rapidly as the consequence of unsustainable forest logging. It is documented that the UN-REDD+ program may provoke ecological damages and/or promote ecological co-benefits. In this respect, biodiversity is of main importance since it plays an essential role in the services that ecosystems can provide to the society in the short and long term. Although tropical forests cover less than 10% of the global land area, they represent the largest terrestrial reservoir of biological diversity, from the gene to the habitat level. Several conservation programs (e.g. ECOFAC, CARPE, etc.) include dynamic conservation strategies to accommodate the natural and human-induced changes in climate, but these programs have only the potential to protect a relative small land cover.
Hence, climate change mitigation through the sequestration of carbon and the protection of biodiversity have both been high priorities in the scientific, governmental, and civil society agendas of the last few years, but they have rarely been considered in conjunction. Within the UN-REDD+ strategy to conserve and protect tropical rainforest systems the sequestration of carbon as a means to attenuate climate change is of primary importance. Biodiversity is generally described as a potential “co-benefit” of forest carbon sequestration, but components of forest biodiversity may overlap to different degrees, trade off with, or be largely independent from those that intervene in carbon sequestration potential Therefore understanding the relationship between C stocks, fluxes and biodiversity as a function of forest management, including forest protection, degradation and forest regeneration, is of main importance. Increased insight in this relationship is needed to maximize the UN-REDD+ gains, to better address the risks of UN-REDD+ programs, and to avoid substantial biodiversity loss.
The aim of this project is to get baseline reference data on the C balance and biodiversity in pristine and intervened dense tropical forests of the Congo Basin and to increase our understanding in the relationship between both variables as a function of forest management. The strategic choice of the tropical forests of D.R. Congo as a study area is inspired by five main reasons: (1) UN-REDD+ actions will soon initiate as D.R. Congo is one of nine pilot UN-REDD+ countries; (2) there are large uncertainties associated to impact of forest degradation on the global C budget as a result of the lack of information on current and future C stocks and fluxes in forests of D.R. Congo; (3) Central African tropical dense rainforest are considered an unexplored and endangered biodiversity hotspot; (4) enhanced forest degradation of non-protected areas in D.R. Congo will almost certainly take place in the future at high rates; and (5) the support of the local stakeholders for future UN-REDD+ initiatives in Central African forests will ultimately depend on its associated impacts on biodiversity and associated ecosystem functions. In order to achieve our objectives, we build a scientific consortium that is composed of 8 partners having complementary research expertise (remote sensing, biogeochemistry, biodiversity biologists, landscape ecology, forestry, etc.) and a common interest in African tropical forest ecology and nature conservation. All partners have established scientific contacts and ongoing collaborations in D.R. Congo.
Expected scientific results
These two project axes will be brought into practice using a set of six complementary work packages (study site selection, baseline carbon inventory, flux tower installation and operation, biodiversity monitoring, integration of carbon and biodiversity monitoring, and conclusions and suggestions for sustainable policies).