Forests: Challenged by a changing climate
An Earthwatch event chaired by chairman of the BBC Wildlife Fund, Bernard Mercer.
Kindly supported by:
The second of Earthwatch’s 2010 lecture series, Forests: Challenged by a changing climate took place on Thursday 20 May. Earthwatch scientists, Dr Glen Reynolds and Dr Mark Huxham, working on research projects in Borneo and Kenya respectively, spoke passionately about the challenges and opportunities facing two very different, but similarly challenged, forest ecosystems.
Dr Reynolds gave a striking presentation, demonstrating how Borneo’s rainforests have, over the past 50 years, been subject to intensive, industrial logging, and cleared to make way for plantations. The crucial ecosystem services provided by the forests, along with thousands of plant and animal species, are now critically threatened. The forests that remain are often highly degraded or scattered as small fragments within agricultural landscapes. Glen told us that it is these forests however, rather than the few remaining pockets of primary forest, that now support much of the island’s biodiversity and thus are critical in maintaining overall ecosystem functioning. His research project findings are supporting this postulation, and he spoke of future plans to protect the areas of degraded forest from further development.
Dr Glen Reynolds explains the many threats to forest ecosystems
Dr Huxham talked passionately about the (often overlooked) mangrove ecosystem, showing us that although mangroves contribute only around 0.4% of the world’s forests they are exceptionally important habitats, providing a wide range of services to local people, and are the most effective natural carbon sinks, sequestering 22 times more carbon per unit area than oceans, and locking this carbon into long term below-ground storage. Mangroves are being destroyed and degraded at a rate of more than 2% per year, which exceeds that for terrestrial tropical forests.
Dr Huxham addresses a packed Ondaatje Lecture Theatre at the Royal Geographical Society, London.
Mark showed us that, despite this degradation, his Earthwatch project is achieving much success, and through the hard work of Earthwatch volunteers and local people his project has established new plots of trees growing for the first time in areas that have been bare of vegetation for more than 30 years. These plots are recovering normal ecosystem processes and recruiting wild plants and animals; a great example of how Earthwatch’s work has achieved a practical conservation outcome.
If you would like to learn more about joining Dr Huxham’s or Dr Reynolds’ projects and get involved in hands-on conservation research activities, check out Climate change and landscape in Borneo’s rainforest & Tidal forests of Kenya
Earthwatch Executive Vice President, Nigel Winser (left) with Dr Mark Huxham, Dr Glen Reynolds and event chair, Bernard Mercer.
We hope you can join us for future Earthwatch events too. Keep an eye on the website for future event details.