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Title: Designing tropical forests of the future to mitigate climate change and safeguard biodiversity
Author: Wheeler, Charlotte Elizabeth
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 0338
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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The restoration of degraded tropical lands can lead to carbon sequestration, which can mitigate climate change, alongside safeguarding biodiversity and providing other co-benefits. Recently tropical countries have pledged to restore millions of hectares of degraded lands to forest. However, important gaps in policy-facing knowledge remain. To address these I firstly assessed the rate that naturally regenerating forests sequester carbon, by systematically reviewing studies measuring forest recovery following the abandonment of agricultural lands. I found a mean above-ground carbon sequestration rate of 2.5 Mg C ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹ (± 0.6, 95% CI) over 100 years, which was not dependent on prior land use (n=71 studies). Next, I measured the results of active restoration of tropical forest, via fire exclusion and planting native seedlings, on abandoned agricultural land in Kibale National Park, Uganda. Above-ground carbon sequestration was 1.9 Mg C ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹ (± 0.4; n=50 x 0.05 ha permanent sample plots) and tree species richness (≥10 cm diameter at breast height) increased from 0 to 5 species per plot in the first 18 years after restoration (1995-2013). I then measured the results of active restoration of tropical forest via planting native seedlings and climber cutting, in selectively logged forest in Sabah, Borneo. Restored forest sequestered aboveground carbon twice as fast as selectively logged control forest (3.3±0.9 and 1.6±0.8 Mg C ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹, respectively; 24 x 0.2 ha plots, half restored, half controls) over eight years (2007-2015), and had higher tree species richness (48 and 35 species ≥10 cm DBH per plot, respectively). Lastly, I estimate the impact of fulfilling the global aspiration of restoring 350 million ha of tropical lands to forest by combining restoration pledges (including the proportion of land committed to native forest and forms of tree-based agriculture), with sequestration rates. Implementation would remove 0.4 Pg C yr⁻¹ from the atmophere over the next 100 years. Restoration is therefore shown to offer climate-relevant sequestration potential, and if active restoration is used then these future forests can be designed to optimise multiple benefits to humanity.
Supervisor: Lewis, S. L. ; Disney, M. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available