Enhancing food, fibre and fuel production to meet growing demand while preserving the integrity of natural ecosystems and their capacity to deliver key services, requires the widespread adoption of sustainable land use practices. The Brazilian Amazon comprises one third of the world's tropical forests and sustains 13% of the world's biota but is experiencing extensive deforestation. Around 8% of forests have been converted to other land uses with an unknown area modified by selective logging, edge effects, surface fires, and hunting. Traditional farming involves 'slash-and-burn' cultivation (for rice, cassava, maize and beans) a practice which depletes soils of nutrients so land is abandoned and new areas exploited. Population growth has placed greater demands on soil (via shorter fallow periods) and forest resources encouraging the growth of environmentally unsustainable meat and milk production practices. Planted and abandoned pastures account for 80% of all cleared lands thus there is urgent need to establish sustainable management strategies to protect ecosystem services and arrest the increase in degraded and exploited environments. Issues faced by Amazonian communities are not solely agricultural; water and energy services are virtually non-existent. Although the Amazon region is rich in natural resources, local populations are economically poor. Water is available throughout the year; however, the quantity and quality varies considerably depending on river water levels and in the dry season, family members, primarily women and children, have to walk for hours to fetch water. Communities are typically isolated from the electric grid with a lack of energy services. Bioenergy technologies such as biomass gasification are attractive in this context since they can provide energy services (via syngas for heat, power and electricity) and biochar which is nutrient-rich and can be used to improve soils, enhance crop growth and nurture sustainable agriculture. Biochar improves soil water use efficiency (retaining soil moisture for crop growth) and can be used as a filter to remove pollutants from drinking water. Biochar may also induce systemic defence against crop pathogens and may be of fundamental importance in terms of food production. The focus of this international research partnership is to develop innovative, appropriate, sustainable waste and residue-fuelled energy systems which enhance delivery of food, water and energy services. The environmental benefits of these 'waste to energy' systems (diminished atmospheric pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, nutrient recovery, wastewater cleanup) will be examined to provide coupled energy-environment services which benefit all end-users. If residues can efficiently be converted into syngas this will provide an alternative resource for the replacement of unsustainable fossil fuels. Using our multidisciplinary expertise we will investigate the potential of wastes and residues to develop affordable and sustainable energy-water-soil-crop systems. Recent interest in the potential of regional biomass such as waste timber and acai seeds (Euterpe oleracea) for energy services shows potential but little research has been undertaken to assess the added-value benefits of these energy services within a food-water-energy nexus approach.
Deforestation and marginalization of rural poor continues in Brazil and Bolivia despite investment in institutional change, forest regulation, improving land management practices and economic development. Previous approaches to equitable management of forest ecosystems in the Amazon tended to offer very narrow formalised solutions, lacked structure and coherence, were too insular and lacked broader international perspective and expertise. The proposed project will address these gaps by providing a holistic and inter-disciplinary approach to understanding the links between the causes, mechanisms and the effects of deforestation on poverty at the agricultural frontier in three case study areas in Bolivia and Brazil. The problem of making the benefits of forest ecosystems available equitably to the disadvantaged people is one of the top priority policy issues identified in the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (2005). However, environmental governance in the Amazon tends to lack engagement with forest dependent poor, so that some ecosystem management initiatives restrict poor people's access to resources and reduce their anti-poverty capabilities. The proposed project attempts to rectify this problem by giving the voice to the rural poor in the Amazon frontier, reconnecting them with the regional policy makers and linking them into broader research networks to develop Southern-led solutions to the problems of deforestation and poverty. Through the series of workshops, pilot studies and user-engagement events the proposed project exposes dynamism of deforestation and its effects on poverty in the frontier areas as well as suggests institutional changes necessary for equitable forest ecosystems management in the Amazon. It will attend to three key areas: 1. Understanding concerns over, experiences of and reactions to deforestation by the forest dependent poor The project will give voice to the forest dependent poor to articulate their concerns over forest degradation and deforestation and to incorporate their perspectives on poverty and poverty alleviation into the development of pathways to sustaining ecosystem services. 2. Developing holistic, interdisciplinary approaches to poverty alleviation through sustainable forestry The proposed project will address fragmentation of existing mechanisms governing ecosystem management and tackling poverty of the people affected by deforestation by bringing together forest dependent poor, policy-makers, governing bodies, and research institutions involved in rural development. It will evaluate existing policies reducing environmental vulnerability, address the lack of capacity and explore the potential for more effective inter-agency work to avoid policy conflicts and duplication of development efforts. 3. Developing international knowledge networks to facilitate equitable forest management Through a series of workshops and pilot studies the project will develop southern-led solutions to deforestation and the alleviation of poverty. It will enable knowledge transfer, research networking and cross-agency learning for the actors at local, national and international levels involved in sustainable forest management in the Amazon.
We want to develop an integrated network of permanent plots in Brazil that can monitor forest biodiversity and carbon fluxes through the 21st century in which its natural systems will be increasingly stressed and challenged by climate change. This project will take an important step towards this ambitious goal. Amazonia is vast, so conducting even basic research is challenging. Monitoring ecosystems here requires scientific leadership, vision, and large networks in which researchers apply standardised techniques on-the-ground at many locations. Training must be integrated into the research process to create capacity and assure long-term continuity of monitoring. This project will build on the successes of the pan-Amazon forest monitoring network (RAINFOR- Rede Amazônica de Inventários Florestais- led by Phillips) by linking with the leading pan-Brazilian biodiversity monitoring network (PPBio). RAINFOR works with 400 permanent plots and has made several major scientific discoveries in Amazonia and developed unique software ("ForestPlots.net") to help tropical partners analyse plot data. But due to poor plot coverage in Brazil, RAINFOR cannot yet provide good estimates of forest carbon balance and dynamics fluxes in Brazil. Meanwhile, PPBio has developed a unique biodiversity assessment protocol and applied it across Brazil with more than 30 institutional partners. However few plots - almost all from one site - have been re-measured for vegetation change. The proposal therefore takes a step towards addressing the needs of both partners. Together we will (1) share techniques and train local participants, (2) recensus 30 PPBio plots in a huge spatial gap, and (3) train young scientists to process, share, and analyse the data using the global protocols of ForestPlots.net. In detail, we plan to: 1. Conduct a hands-on field course to prepare teams to conduct forest monitoring. This will be based in a rural community where PPBio has already invested in plots. The course will teach skills for plant collection, identification and measurement. Young rural community participants will work with ecologists from Brazil and UK. This provides an opportunity to experiment with forest monitoring - sharing protocols, identifying capacities and leaders, and training in technical data collection skills. Key participants will also be involved in the main fieldwork phase (activity 2), and in the data management and analysis workshop (activity 3), with the project helping provide marginalised rural people with new skills. 2. Remeasure 30 plots along the BR-319 road from Manaus to Porto Velho. BR-319 cuts an 850km transect through the least known forests in Amazonia, a true 'black hole' for biogeochemical and biodiversity science. PPBio has established a series of 111 plots along this road. This project will undertake the first recensuses of plots along this transect, providing the first information on forest dynamics and carbon fluxes from the heart of Brazil's Amazon. 3. Joint workshop to train participants in data management and analysis. We will use ForestPlots.net to help partners manage and analyse information from their plots. The workshop will include scientists, students, and rural people from Amazonian Brazil, lasting 8 days plus one rest day. Biodiversity and forest dynamics data will be integrated into ForestPlots.net, to ensure that PPBio data are carefully checked and comparable internationally. Analysis will involve training in the calculations of carbon stock, carbon balance, vegetation dynamics, biodiversity, and interpreting the rich information on useful Amazon forest species within ForestPlots.net, using an R-package which RAINFOR has developed with NERC support. In turn, participants will feedback and educate the RAINFOR/ForestPlots.net team to determine specific user requirements to make information in the future more accessible, interpretable, and useful for forest researchers, forest dwellers, and forest users.