Bournemouth University


Our students, graduates and staff to enrich the world


Helping to preserve forest areas for future generations

The Research

Professor Adrian Newton recently coordinated the ReForLan research project, a European Commission funded international initiative involving researchers from six countries which focused on the ecological restoration of native forest in dryland areas of South America.

Prof Newton and his team assessed the extensive environmental degradation that has taken place, and the potential for ecological recovery through restoration.

Specifically, the project examined whether such restoration is cost-effective, when the value of different ecosystem services (the benefits provided by eco-systems to people ) is taken into account. Results highlighted the high socio-economic value of these forests, providing services such as carbon storage, timber, fuel wood and medicinal plants, as well as being home to large numbers of species.

A book has recently been published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) based on the results of the project, which is available as a free download from their website. IUCN is a major international body helping to find solutions to the most pressing environment and development challenges facing the world.

As a follow up to the ReForLan project, research on the restoration of tropical dry forest is continuing through the work of Carolina Castellanos, a PhD student in the School of Applied Sciences.

Her work is based in the Caribbean region of Colombia, where dry forest is under threat from agriculture and urban development, despite being home to species that are found nowhere else, such as an endemic monkey. Carolina's research has focused on analysing human impacts on this very diverse ecosystem, as a way of understanding how it might recover under different approaches to land use.

Carolina is currently analysing the relationship between the high diversity of this eco-system and the provision of benefits to people. This should help raise awareness of the importance of these forests to people, as well as wildlife, and support their future conservation and management.

The Academic

Over the past two decades, the sustainable development of forest resources has become a global environmental issue, reflecting widespread concern about high rates of forest loss and degradation. Our research has examined human impacts on forest ecosystems in a range of developing countries, with the aim of informing appropriate policy and management responses, with a particular focus on ecological restoration. By means of meta-analysis, we have shown for the first time that ecological restoration is generally effective in increasing both biodiversity and provision of ecosystem services (Rey Benayas et al. 2009), a finding that has major implications for policy and practice at the global scale. Our research has also provided the first systematic evidence of the cost-effectiveness of ecological restoration, based on mapping eco-system services. Results have shown that restoration can be highly cost effective in some areas, such as the dry forests of Latin America. However in the UK, our research has shown that restoration is less likely to deliver net economic benefits, at least in intensively used landscapes such as those typical of lowland England. This contradicts the evidence on which current Government policy in the UK is based.

Professor Adrian Newton

The Student

My research in functional ecology of tropical dry forests is expected to offer the information required to design and execute forest restoration projects in the Colombian Caribbean. I expect to lead and find resources for the initiatives that emerge from my PhD, in alliance with the national environmental institutions and other possible allies. Bournemouth University offers great opportunities in this kind of research and has supported my project by means of financial resources and constant academic advice, mainly through my principal supervisor, but also by means of the academic group. Forest research covers a wide geographic scope and allows students to exchange views of conservation in different social and economic contexts. The university also offers the opportunity to visit and collaborate with other academic institutions, widening the research areas that can be approached by students. The School of Applied Sciences is still growing and it is expected that research areas will diversify, increasing student's opportunities and improving the academic experience.

Carolina Castellanos Castro, PhD student in the School of Applied Sciences

The Impact

ReForLan formed a significant part of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report Dead Planet, Living Planet: Biodiversity and Ecosystem Restoration for Sustainable Development, The work has also been featured in the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3, a global environmental assessment produced by the Convention on Biological Diversity, and is also having a direct impact on the international policy discourse relating to biodiversity.