In many tropical areas, rainforests are cleared in order to exploit timber and other forest products and plant crops for food, feed, fiber 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 converted systems of tropical rainforests for conserving biodiversity as well as for ecological and socioeconomic functions so far have received little attention in scientific research.
The Collaborative Research Center 990 (CRC 990 / EFForTS) aims at providing science-based knowledge on how to protect and enhance the ecological functions of tropical forests and agricultural land-use systems at a landscape scale, while improving human welfare. The CRC aims at providing information on how to integrate agricultural land use and conservation. It is implemented in one of the largest regions of tropical lowland rainforest in Southeast Asia, Jambi Province in Sumatra, Indonesia. The most important agricultural land-use systems in Jambi include rubber and oil palm plantations. Within Jambi, two landscapes and 24 core plots were selected for detailed analyses in Phases 1 and 2 of the CRC, covering agricultural land-use systems and forest reference sites. For Phase 3, 100 additional plots were selected on which ecosystem characteristics are measured by rapid assessment tools for scaling-up the results to the landscape level. Further, in two experiments the effects of enrichment planting into oil palm plantations as well as different intensities of fertilizer and pesticide use are investigated. The parameters considered include 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 conversion and follow-up land-use changes. A particular focus is on identifying synergies and trade-offs among and between the various ecological and socioeconomic functions, knowledge of which is an important precondition for designing and implementing more sustainable land-use systems. The CRC is organized in close cooperation between the University of Göttingen and partner institutions in Indonesia. It is a unique research undertaking on issues of lowland rainforest conversion with a broad interdisciplinary focus and landscape perspective.