Two GLP members receive ERC Consolidator Grants

Related GLP Member: Chinwe Ifejika Speranza, Tobias Kuemmerle

SUSTAINFORESTS: Forest patches in West African agricultural landscapes

The SUSTAINFORESTS project analyzes the roles of forest patches in the highly fragmented agricultural landscapes of the rainforest and savannah zones of West African countries Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Cameroon. "The innovative potential of these areas as biodiversity habitats, for adapting to climate change and mitigating climate change continues to be neglected," explains Chinwe Ifejika Speranza. The project will investigate how forest patches preserve livelihood functions and even provide new ecosystem services such as food. "I will also investigate the conditions under which these forest patches can have a sustainable future," says Ifejika Speranza. The results should clarify the theories about forest patches in agricultural landscapes and open up paths for new research. The knowledge gained will be incorporated into efforts to conserve forest areas and to promote sustainable agriculture and forest management.

"The funds from the grants will be used to train geographers at the beginning of their careers," says Chinwe Ifejika Speranza. "With my team of researchers from Africa, Europe and other regions of the world, I will conduct field research on selected tropical forest patches in West African forest and savannah regions to understand their dynamics and functions and to learn how they can be managed sustainably". Generating and communicating such knowledge about the shift towards sustainability is an important focus of research and teaching at the University of Bern, says Ifejika Speranza.

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Reconciling land use and conservation

The project SYSTEMSHIFT (Shifting to a Land Systems Paradigm in Conservation) by Professor Kuemmerle investigates how land-use impacts biodiversity, using the world’s tropical dry forests as study case. The focus of the project is on the development of a new, socio-ecological approach to conservation assessments and planning that centres around land-use actors. This will make it possible to better understand the complex and diverse relationships between land users and their environment – and how this translates into threats to biodiversity. At the same time, Professor Kuemmerle and his team will develop novel methods to uncover the interactions between different threats to biodiversity that have so far mainly been studied in isolation, such as habitat destruction and poaching. Together, this will provide the foundation for developing new conservation strategies that reconcile land use and conservation goals. The project focuses on the unique dry forests of South America, as they are among the fastest disappearing ecosystems on Earth. Although agribusiness agriculture continues to expand rapidly into the last forest areas in these regions. Very little is known, however, how these land-use changes impact on biodiversity and how the ongoing loss of biodiversity can be effectively confronted.

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