A decision-support tool contributing to long-term restoration success of tropical dry forest in PeruOngoing
Peru's tropical dry forests cover around 3.2 million ha, most of which are located in the Endemic Tumbesian Region in north-western Peru, the target area of this research project. The target area comprises the coastal and inter-andean valley forests of the departments of Piura, Tumbes, Lambayeque, Cajamarca and La Libertad, of which Piura hosts the largest area of remaining tropical dry forests. More than 400,000 people live in the target area, and they all directly or indirectly depend on the ecosystem services provided by the tropical dry forest for their livelihoods and economic activities. The most important ecosystem services delivered by these forests include the provision of raw materials such as forage for cattle, wood, honey, fruits, as well as regulating services like microclimate and water flow regulation. However, the provision of these ecosystem services is threatened by deforestation, unsustainable wood extraction, overgrazing, land degradation and desertification. 76% of the area of Piura has been deforested and 20% of the area is affected by ongoing desertification. In addition, the region is highly vulnerable to climate change. During extreme El Niño years, exceptionally high amounts of rainfall leads to disastrous consequences, including crop losses, landslides, the destruction of infrastructure and health problems. The impacts of extreme El Niño floods are exacerbated by the low water retention capacity of deforested areas.
A number of forest restoration projects have already been set up in the target area, but further knowledge creation is necessary to guide the selection of the species combinations and seed sources that best contribute to different restoration goals. Today, species and seed choices are largely opportunistic, focusing on a limited number of well-known species and readily available planting material, often of poor quality and not necessarily adapted to future climatic conditions. This is likely to result in a sub-optimal generation of ES and to lead to a suboptimal resilience of the restored ecosystems.
The objectiveof this research project is to develop a spatially-explicit decision-support tool to assist restoration practitioners, including local communities, in tropical dry forests of Peru with selecting a combination of appropriate tree species and seed sources that (i) most effectively contribute to local restoration objectives and the generation of ecosystem goods and services, (ii) show the highest resilience towards local environmental stress factors and (iii) enhance adaptive capacity to climate change. The research project aims at integrating (a) participatory identification of restoration goals and socio-economic, cultural and environmental uses of local tree species, (b) the suitability of tropical dry forest tree species under different scenarios of climate change, (c) the association of tree species’ functional traits with ecosystem services and resilience towards environmental stress factors, and (d) indirect information about the genetic quality of seed sources.
The supervisor North is Prof. Dr. ir. Bart Muys, head of the Forest Ecology and Management research group at KU Leuven, and the supervisor South is Dr. Evert Thomas of the Bioversity International Regional Office for the Americas in Lima, Peru. The research project will be carried out in cooperation with the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM) and the Universidad Nacional de Tumbes (UNT).
VLADOC PhD Scholarships
01/11/2016 - 14/10/2020