Collaborative Research Centre 990: Ecological and Socioeconomic Functions of Tropical Lowland Rainforest Transformation Systems (Sumatra, Indonesia) (Phase 2: 2016 – 2019)

Project term 2nd Phase: 01.01.2016 - 31.12.2019

In many tropical areas, rainforests are cleared in order to exploit timber and other forest products and plant crops for food, feed and fuel use. Commonly it is assumed that, when natural forests are cleared, all forest functions and services are lost. However, complete conservation is not realistic in many settings and might also not be required from an ecological perspective. Surprisingly, the determinants of different patterns of deforestation and the roles of resulting transformation systems of tropical rainforests for conserving biodiversity as well as ecological and socioeconomic functions have so far received little attention in scientific research.

The Collaborative Research Center (CRC) aims at providing science-based knowledge on how to protect and enhance the ecological functions of tropical forests and agricultural transformation systems at a landscape scale, while improving human welfare. Further, the program aims at providing baseline information on how to integrate agricultural land use and conservation issues.

Extending the research questions and infrastructure of Phase 1 (see Highlights of scientific results in Phase 1) the following new topics will be investigated in Phase 2:
• Heterogeneity in spatial, temporal and social conditions as influencing factors for land-use changes and their ecological and socioeconomic functions.
• The role of ecological heterogeneity (riparian sites) for ecological and socioeconomic functions of tropical lowland rainforest and agricultural land-use systems.
• Enrichment by native fruit and timber trees, as well as reduced nutrient and pesticide use as sustainable management options for oil palm plantations.

The research is implemented in one of the largest regions of tropical lowland rainforest in Southeast Asia, namely Jambi Province in Sumatra, Indonesia (see Study sites and experimental design). The most important transformation systems in Jambi include rubber and oil palm plantations. Within Jambi, two landscapes and 32 core sites - including transformation systems and forest reference sites - are selected for detailed analyses. The CRC scientific projects analyze and compare a broad range of issues, including above and below ground biodiversity, soil fertility, water, nutrient and greenhouse gas fluxes, as well as economic, social, cultural and political aspects related to rainforest transformation. A particular focus is laid on identifying synergies and trade-offs among and between the various ecological and socioeconomic functions, which is an important precondition for designing and implementing more sustainable systems (including biosphere reserves).

The CRC is organized in close cooperation between the University of Göttingen and the University of Jambi (UNJA), Bogor Agricultural University (IPB), Tadulako University (UNTAD) and the Indonesian Institute of Science (LIPI). It is a unique research undertaking on issues of lowland rainforest transformation, especially with a view to its very broad interdisciplinary focus and landscape perspective