BIODIVERSITY AND LAND-USE IMPACTS ON TROPICAL ECOSYSTEM FUNCTION (BALI)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: Inst of Biological and Environmental Sci

Abstract

Anthropogenic disturbance and land-use change in the tropics is leading to irrevocable changes in biodiversity and substantial shifts in ecosystem biogeochemistry. Yet, we still have a poor understanding of how human-driven changes in biodiversity feed back to alter biogeochemical processes. This knowledge gap substantially restricts our ability to model and predict the response of tropical ecosystems to current and future environmental change. There are a number of critical challenges to our understanding of how changes in biodiversity may alter ecosystem processes in the tropics; namely: (i) how the high taxonomic diversity of the tropics is linked to ecosystem functioning, (ii) how changes in the interactions among trophic levels and taxonomic groups following disturbance impacts upon functional diversity and biogeochemistry, and (iii) how plot-level measurements can be used to scale to whole landscapes. We have formed a consortium to address these critical challenges to launch a large-scale, replicated, and fully integrated study that brings together a multi-disciplinary team with the skills and expertise to study the necessary taxonomic and trophic groups, different biogeochemical processes, and the complex interactions amongst them.

To understand and quantify the effects of land-use change on the activity of focal biodiversity groups and how this impacts biogeochemistry, we will: (i) analyse pre-existing data on distributions of focal biodiversity groups; (ii) sample the landscape-scale treatments at the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project site (treatments include forest degradation, fragmentation, oil palm conversion) and key auxiliary sites (Maliau Basin - old growth on infertile soils, Lambir Hills - old growth on fertile soils, Sabah Biodiversity Experiment - rehabilitated forest, INFAPRO-FACE - rehabilitated forest); and (iii) implement new experiments that manipulate key components of biodiversity and pathways of belowground carbon flux.

The manipulations will focus on trees and lianas, mycorrhizal fungi, termites and ants, because these organisms are the likely agents of change for biogeochemical cycling in human-modified tropical forests. We will use a combination of cutting-edge techniques to test how these target groups of organisms interact each other to affect biogeochemical cycling. We will additionally collate and analyse archived data on other taxa, including vertebrates of conservation concern. The key unifying concept is the recognition that so-called 'functional traits' play a key role in linking taxonomic diversity to ecosystem function. We will focus on identifying key functional traits associated with plants, and how they vary in abundance along the disturbance gradient at SAFE. In particular, we propose that leaf functional traits (e.g. physical and chemical recalcitrance, nitrogen content, etc.) play a pivotal role in determining key ecosystem processes and also strongly influence atmospheric composition. Critically, cutting-edge airborne remote sensing techniques suggest it is possible to map leaf functional traits, chemistry and physiology at landscape-scales, and so we will use these novel airborne methods to quantify landscape-scale patterns of forest degradation, canopy structure, biogeochemical cycling and tree distributions. Process-based mathematical models will then be linked to the remote sensing imagery and ground-based measurements of functional diversity and biogeochemical cycling to upscale our findings over disturbance gradients.

Planned Impact

Beneficiaries will include the policy makers associated with the development of REDD+ schemes (including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNCCC] and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC]), forest managers at company and State level, the oil palm industry, academic institutions in Malaysia, and the conservation sector globally.

REDD+ policy: Results from this project will provide information of key relevance to the management and monitoring of degraded forests within REDD+ schemes. In particular this work will quantify the impacts of habitat degradation and change on belowground biodiversity and processes and develop a series of robust indicators, which can be developed into effective monitoring strategies to assess forest degradation and recovery. REDD+ policy is of particular importance given UNFCCC COP negotiations in Doha in December 2012. The UNFCCC are active in developing guidance for REDD+, and REDD+ is one of the hottest topics in development of the IPCC chapter on Agriculture Forestry and Other Land Use.

Forest Managers: Belowground processes are key to sustainable forest management. The development of user-friendly survey techniques will allow timber industries to assess the impacts of existing management options more fully. |In particular the project will allow assessment of key strategies for aiding forest recovery; crucial for sustainable timber production in the region.

Oil palm industry: The increasing focus of the global oil palm industry on corporate social responsibility and the development of more sustainable management practices through schemes such as the RSPO, has precipitated a growing need for robust monitoring of belowground processes associated with sustainable oil palm production. The indicators developed in this project will be key to this and will facilitate the monitoring of these processes in a plantation context for the first time.

Academic institutions in Malaysia: Despite a growing body of biodiversity research in the region, the biodiversity of Southeast Asia, particularly that of belowground components, remains relatively little studied. Such a knowledge gap can act as a barrier for continued ecological research in the region. This project will provide detailed information on species data for belowground systems.

Conservation sector: The growth of tropical agriculture represents the major threat to biodiversity globally. However, conservation organizations are sometimes hampered in their ability to converse with government policy makers, through lack of detailed information about the impacts of habitat change. This project will fill a knowledge gap in this area and provide detailed data on the impacts of habitat change on below ground biodiversity and ecosystem processes.

Publications


10 25 50
 
Title BALI logo 
Description Designed and contributed ideas towards the BALI consortium logo. 
Type Of Art Image 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact Promoting the project and its aims. 
URL http://www.bali.hmtf.info
 
Description Plant trait campaign: After completing the BALI plant trait field campaign at the end of 2015, the majority of plant material analyses have now been completed. A subsample of dried plant material and frozen leaf discs were exported to the University of Aberdeen in order to measure isotope concentrations, specifically 13C and 15N. Currently underway are analyses extracting phenol and tannin concentrations. The results to date show a vast magnitude and diversity of plant functional traits expressed in the forests in Sabah, specifically in Maliau Basin, Danum Valley and the SAFE project sites. Preliminary results show a significantly higher concentration of leaf phosphorus content found in trees of old-growth forests. Similarly, concentrations of Ca, Mg, K were revealed to be significantly higher in Maliau Basin and Danum Valley compared to trees of the SAFE project sites. A total of 315 tree species were studied and their trait variability will now be analysed in the context of land-use change. Specifically the studies will shed light on the detailed characterization of plant traits expressed in forests in Borneo as well as the impact of selective logging on the trait diversity.

Remotely sensed hyperspectral data: Remotely sensed hyperspectral data has been obtained as part of the BALI project in 2014. The data from Maliau, SAFE and Danum has been atmospherically corrected and prepared for further downstream analysis. A post-doctoral researcher has been appointed at the Coomes group at University of Cambridge to lead the further analysis of the data.

Manipulative experiments at Maliau and SAFE including the assessment of leaf litter decomposition: The team of Dr Sabine Both is currently finalising the publication of the results gathered from the leaf litter decomposition experiment, which was conducted in Maliau Basin and SAFE project sites in November 2014 - April 2015. Given the widespread human-modified tropical landscape with selectively logged forest replacing old-growth forest at high rates, it is vital to understand the consequences for decomposition. It is unknown to what extent the extraordinary species diversity interact, not only for plants but also in microbial and invertebrate communities, and the qualitative effect of complex environmental conditions. The multifactorial experiment was established in order to test the effect of land-use change, i.e. the transition from old-growth forest to selectively logged forest, on decomposition and nutrient cycling. Leaf litter mass loss of two contrasting leaf litter types was determined after 24 weeks and the change in chemical composition analysed at the end of the experiment in relation to the initial chemistry. The results show that litter decomposition was mainly driven by land-use and not litter quality. There was a very strong difference between chemical composition of leaf litter locally collected in areas of Maliau Basin and the SAFE project, with the latter showing significantly lower concentration of nutrients, for example phosphorus and calcium. However, despite these substantial differences in chemical litter properties, the main driver was not litter chemical composition but land-use type. Compared to old-growth forest, decomposition in selectively logged was significantly lower. The results show clearly that selective logging negatively affects decomposition rates in tropical rainforests.

Girdling experiment: All pre- and post- girdling sampling work has been completed. However, access to the site is still required for potential post-girdling sampling (> 6 months effect) and access to equipment/facilities at site.
Exploitation Route We hope support the dissemination of project results by:
Supporting public outreach activities and skill transfer to local institutions and wider audiences through workshops, educational events and training in the lab and field.
Dissemination of information via our project website, film documentaries, at local and international conferences and through publications in scientific journals.
Provide detailed feedback to stakeholders, including landholders, relevant industries and local and national governmental departments.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
URL http://bali.hmtf.info/
 
Description PUBLIC POLICY Members of the BALI consortium have also contributed to the development of sustainable management strategies for the oil palm industry. For example, PIs Burslem and Teh provided expert opinions, input, and advice on a technical report for the RSPO which helps define best-practice guidelines for conserving carbon in oil palm landscapes and mitigating climate change. The final report is entitled "The High Carbon Stock Science Study: Independent Report from the Technical Committee." PUBLIC OUTREACH Researchers from BALI have participated in a number of public outreach events, including presentations to the general public, primary and secondary schools, and training (capacity building) events within their host countries. For example, BALI team members were involved in a Nature Live Public Lecture at the Natural History Museum, open day events throughout the UK (e.g. Doors Open Day in Aberdeen), guest lectures at primary and secondary schools in Malaysia and elsewhere, and training of local research assistants and volunteers on invertebrate identification and dung beetle sampling (BALI and LOMBOK). MULTIMEDIA Members of the BALI consortium, LOMBOK, and SEARRP have jointly produced a short film specifically focusing on the Malaysian part of the HMTF programme to showcase our research and objectives. Educational videos on biogeochemical cycling, mammals, invertebrate dispersal, leeches, dung beetles, and birds are also being developed. The films are geared towards the general public and will be displayed on the HMTF consortia websites and disseminated via social networks (www.hmtf.info).
First Year Of Impact 2015
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Education,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic
 
Description Training of local research assistants the methodology of dung beetle sampling and invertebrate identification
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Malaysia Palm Oil Board Research Grant
Amount RM6,520,000 (MYR)
Organisation Malaysian Palm Oil Board 
Sector Public
Country Malaysia
Start 07/2014 
End 06/2017
 
Description NERC Do riparian zones conserve biodiversity and ecofunctioing in oil palm-dominated landscapes
Amount £607,678 (GBP)
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start  
 
Description Forest Research Centre, Sepilok, Malaysia 
Organisation Saebo
Country United States of America 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution BALI consortium research project.
Collaborator Contribution Use of facilities and expertise in analytical chemistry including support for research permit applications to the Sabah Biodiversity Council.
Impact Research is underway.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ITBC), Malaysia 
Organisation Universiti Malaysia Sabah
Country Malaysia 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Research expertise and training of researchers in the field and laboratory.
Collaborator Contribution Laboratory facilities and research expertise including support for research permit applications to the Sabah Biodiversity Council.
Impact 4 postgraduate studentships awarded to scholars through Universiti Malaysia Sabah, working in collaboration with the SAFE project and SEARRP. Research is underway.
Start Year 2013
 
Description The South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) 
Organisation The Royal Society
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Our scientists have been closely working with the Royal Society Southeast Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP) to recruit and train local research assistants and students in the laboratory and field. We are also working closely with the Assistant Director of SEARRP for Science and Knowledge Exchange, to help with dissemination of project results to relevant stakeholders.
Collaborator Contribution Research assistance and operational support in the field including training.
Impact Studentships and further funding applications.
Start Year 2010
 
Description "Introduction to the BALI Consortium - Biodiversity And Land-use Impacts on Tropical Ecosystem Function" at the University of Malaysia Sabah 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Talked encourage collaboration among Malaysian academics/researchers and UK academics.

New collaborative relationships developed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description "Introduction to the BALI Consortium - Biodiversity And Land-use Impacts on Tropical Ecosystem Function" at the Malaysian Palm Oil Board in Kuala Lumpur 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk lead to in-depth discussion.

Strengthening of existing research collaborations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Biodiversity and Land-use Impacts on Tropical Ecosystem Function, Chicheley 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gave a talk titled Biodiversity And Land-use impacts on Tropical Ecosystem Function at the Royal Society Southeast Asia Rainforest Research Programme Meeting, Chicheley Hall, Chicheley.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Convenor, Annual Conference of the European Society for Tropical Ecology 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Co-convener for the session Human-modified tropical forests - Impacts of forest degradation and biodiversity loss on tropical ecosystem functioning at the Annual Conference of the Society for Tropical Ecology, Gottingen, Germany
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.soctropecol.eu
 
Description Convenor, Annual Conference of the European Society for Tropical Ecology 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Convened a session on Human-modified tropical forests - Impacts of forest degradation and biodiversity loss on tropical ecosystem functioning. The aim of the session was to explore what is known about the linkages between forest degradation and biodiversity loss, and investigate the consequences of these concomitant phenomena for ecosystem processes and trace gas exchange. Knowledge gaps and means of addressing them, including inter-disciplinary or multi-disciplinary modes of problem solving were discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.soctropecol.eu
 
Description Educational film 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The BALI consortium has teamed up with the South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP) and the LOMBOK project to produce a joint film specifically focusing on the Malaysian part of the HMTF programme to showcase our research and objectives. The is geared towards the general public and will be displayed on the HMTF consortia websites and disseminated via social networks (www.hmtf.info).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Friends of Borneensis, 11-13th March 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact BALI researchers, Hannah Griffiths, Louise Ashton and Terhi Riutta and LOMBOK researchers Eleanor Slade and Sol Milne gave talks at the Friends Of Borneensis, an educational event for local secondary school pupils organised by the Institute for Tropical Biology and Conservation at Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 11-13 March 2016. During Friends of Borneensis, students learn different aspects of rainforest ecology and field-based ecological methods, including collecting insects, flying drones and tree climbing skills.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Guest speaker at United World College of Southeast Asia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact Guest speaker. Gave a talk titled "Day in the life of a tropical ecologist".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description International Conference of Heart of Borneo, 8-9 November 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact LOMBOK and BALI team members attended the International Conference of Heart of Borneo, 8th - 9th November, organised by the Sabah Forestry Department. Eleanor Slade helped organise a science-policy workshop with South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP) at the meeting and ran a break-out group on science-policy interface for riparian areas. Jake Bicknell led a break-out group for oil palm high conservation value areas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.heartofborneo.org
 
Description Introduction to the BALI consortium at the Science@SAFE 2014 meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Presentation on the Impacts of biodiversity loss and land-use change on biogeochemical cycling and trace gas fluxes across a forest degradation gradient in northern Borneo. The presentation gave an overview of BALI consortium activities and an update on current research progress. A HMTF programme management team meeting was also held at this event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.safeproject.net/workshop/schedule.php
 
Description Nature Live public outreach event at the Natural History Museum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Researchers Hannah Griffiths and Louise Ashton participated in a Nature Live public outreach event at the Natural History Museum, 27th January 2016, where they gave a talk about their research and displayed some of the invertebrates they collected and identified in the field.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Provide expert scientific input on the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Science Study by the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact David Burslem and Yit And Teh provided were asked to advise and provide feedback on a report commissioned by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) called "HCS Science Study: Draft Synthesis Report". This document, prepared by an independent scientific panel and co-chaired by Jonathon Porritt, aimed to provide expert advice and guidance to the oil palm industry on how to sustainably manage oil palm plantations and the surrounding landscapes for carbon, with the wider goal of offsetting or mitigating carbon losses from plantation development. The input provided by Burslem and Teh led to the production of a final report ("High Carbon Stock Science Study: Independent Report from the Technical Committee"), which will be used to guide the planning and management practices of the oil palm industry, and support the RSPO in reaching its sustainability and climate change mitigation targets.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.simedarby.com/sustainability/clients/simedarby_sustainability/assets/contentMS/img/templa...
 
Description Research seminar talk at the National University of Singapore 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gave a talk titled Soil-atmosphere trace gas exchange in the tropical Andes at a Research Seminar at the National University of Singapore.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Research seminar talk at the University of Oxford, UK 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Gave a talk titled Impacts of soil methane and nitrous oxide dynamics on ecosystem climate forcing at a Research Seminar, University of Oxford.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description University Malaysia Sabah, Current Topics in Conservation module for undergraduate students 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact BALI researchers Boris Bongalov and Terhi Riutta and LOMBOK researcher Eleanor Slade gave talks to undergraduate Conservation students at University Malaysia Sabah (UMS), in February and April 2016. This was part of a module entitled "Current Topics in Conservation" which aimed to provide students with examples of real-life research that applied to concepts they studied during the course of their degree.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description University of Aberdeen Doors Open Day 2016 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact University of Aberdeen opened its doors to members of the public, 10th September 2016. We set up a 'tropical forests' themed stall to help showcase our work and talk to visitors about our research in Malaysia. We displayed photos from our trips as well as tropical seeds, insect and animal specimens. We had 453 visitors throughout the day including visitors to the Zoology museum and Biodiversity Centre.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Workshops at the Science@SAFE 2014 meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 3 workshops were held at the Science@SAFE meeting including 1) an overview of EarthCape platform, 2) Linking plot and satellite data 3) Soil trace gas flux measurements.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014