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Scottish academics lead rainforest research project

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A team from Aberdeen University is to lead a four-year study involving UK and international partners, into the impact of humans on tropical rainforests.

The £4.6 million project is being backed by the Natural Environment Research Council and aims to produce findings to be used by Governments, conservationists and groups looking into climate change. It will focus on deforestation and illegal logging and the effects agriculture has on forestry.

The researchers will carry out their work in South East Asia, but the results will also be used to inform policies in other rainforest areas including Brazil. Brazilian, Japanese, Malaysian and American organisations are also backing the study, which has support from UK academics at seven universities as well as the Natural History Museum in London.

Dr Yit Arn Teh from Aberdeen University is leading the project. He told the Scotsman: “Logging and agricultural conversion in places like Borneo are threatening rainforest biodiversity; however, we still have a poor understanding of how humans are affecting not only charismatic, well-known species like the Asian elephant, hornbills and orang-utans, but a whole host of other animals, plants and microbes that the public is often less aware of.”

The team will focus on the relationship between the changing land use and how the local ecosystem is affected, as well as aiming to find methods of more sustainable land management. Knowledge of the effects of forest clearing and land conversion on plants, insects and soil is currently limited and research is needed to find out what part it plays in influencing ecological processes.

Dr Teh added: “This makes it difficult for us to model and predict the environmental effects of human activity in the tropics, both today and in the future. It also makes it challenging to work-out the best means of sustainably managing tropical forests or agricultural landscapes.”


Extpub | by Dr. Radut