PARTNERS works to promote tropical forest regrowth

June 3rd, 2014
Led by and Robin Chazdon, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Michael Willig, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Director of the Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, researchers and non-profit leaders representing 14 countries convened at the University of Connecticut last week to begin work on a global five-year, multidisciplinary project called PARTNERS – People and Reforestation in the Tropics: A Network for Education, Research, and Synthesis.

The project is funded by a $440,000 grant from the National Science Foundation and is designed to help scientists, governments, and people around the world understand and plan for sustainable and socially responsible tropical forest regrowth.

According to the researchers, hope for the future of tropical forests lies in protecting remaining old-growth forest areas and in reforestation—the re-establishment of forest cover through natural regeneration, active forest restoration, agroforestry, or forest plantations.

Goals

The goal of the PARTNERS project is to synthesize both ecological and social science data to understand factors that lead to forest regrowth and to make tangible reforestation recommendations to policymakers in tropical regions around the world.

"What makes the project unique," says Willig, "is that it brings together not only ecologists and environmental scientists, but social scientists such as anthropologists, economists, political scientists, and sociologists, all working together to determine the best practices for managed forest regeneration."

Chazdon, who is author of Second Growth: The Promise of Tropical Forest Regeneration in an Age of Deforestation, explains that tropical forests suffered unprecedented damage in the 20th century, during which time old-growth Central and South American, African, and Asian forests were cleared to make room for farms and pastures, to harvest timber for construction and fuel, and to build roads and cities.

Today, almost 4 million square miles in the tropics offer opportunities for reforestation leading to benefits in the form of ecosystem services such as removing carbon from the atmosphere and filtering water.

Among the global non-governmental organizations that participated in the PARTNERS conference were the Union of Concerned Scientists, the World Resources Institute , and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. These and other interested organizations will transmit their findings to policy makers, students, foresters, and the general public via webinars, policy briefs, field training, and on-line courses.

"UConn is an ideal home for this work because of the many researchers here who are interested in sustainability from many different disciplines," said Willig. "But the real driving force behind this work has been Professor Chazdon. This has been her passion for more than 25 years and she's among the world's experts. She is the right person, in the right place, at the right time."

Provided by University of Connecticut

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