Background The deforestation and degradation of natural forests is a large source of carbon dioxide emissions and a substantial driver of climate change. Whilst deforestation (the complete removal of forests) is relatively easy to observe, forest degradation (caused by logging, slash-and-burn agriculture and fuel wood extraction) is much more difficult to quantify. Losses of carbon from tropical forest degradation have been relatively poorly researched and may be seriously underestimated. At the same time the regrowth of degraded forests sequesters carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The importance of forest degradation and regrowth have not been well assessed at the regional scale.
This studentship will explore the impacts of forest degradation with a specific focus on lowland tropical forests of Vietnam. The studentship will involve extended periods of field work in Vietnam to quantify above-ground carbon stocks across a gradient of forest degradation. Data from the field will be combined with satellite data to develop understanding at the regional scale. The studentship is a partnership with the international NGO the World Land Trust (WLT). Understanding from the studentship will contribute to the conservation of tropical forests through informing the development of a forest carbon conservation scheme being developed by the WLT in Vietnam.
Objectives The aim of this studentship is to improve our understanding of tropical forest degradation with a specific focus on lowland forests in Vietnam. Specifically, the studentship will:
a) Quantify the impact of tropical forest degradation on above-ground carbon stocks. b) Improve understanding of the drivers of tropical forest degradation. c) Explore the potential for forest protection and restoration to sequester carbon. d) Explore the use of satellite remote sensing to detect and quantify forest degradation and restoration. e) Contribute the science-base required for development and monitoring of a certified forest carbon conservation scheme based around avoided forest degradation and subsequent restoration.
Project area The studentship will focus on the Khe Nuoc Trong forest (Fig. 1), a 20 000 hectare area of Annamese Lowland Forest in Quang Binh Province, north-central Vietnam (Fig. 2). The forest has high conservation value and has been designated an Important Bird Area and Key Biodiversity Area. The site consists of a spectrum of forest degradation, from relatively undisturbed forests to areas of severely degraded forest, that have been subjected to repeated selective logging. Officially protected since 2008, the forest continues to experience widespread illegal logging. The local forest department are now working with the local NGO the Viet Nature Conservation Centre (VNCC) and international NGO the WLT to improve forest protection financed through a forest carbon conservation scheme. The studentship will establish and monitor above ground forest carbon stocks across a gradient of forest degradation.
The studentship is a partnership with the World Land Trust (WLT), an international conservation NGO which works to protect the world’s most biologically important and threatened habitats. Through working closely with overseas project partners, WLT has been instrumental in the protection of over 200 000 hectares of threatened tropical forests. Collaboration between Dr Spracklen and the WLT dates to 2003, and has included work to establish forest carbon projects in Ecuador and Paraguay.