Understanding the forest itself is crucial for understanding its biodiversity and the benefits it provides. We have a strong tradition of research in this area, with data sets collected over 10 years and across numerous forest types.
This research can be broadly categorised into three main components, all of which include both assessment and monitoring work:
- Studies of forest condition, including forest structure, productivity and hydrology, and processes and function
- The impacts of human activities on forest condition; and
- Reforestation studies, in which we aim to develop improved techniques to restore highly damaged areas of converted or burned forest.
Research on forest condition includes use of remote imagery to study changes in forest area coverage; tree plots to assess and monitor forest structure (e.g. tree density, mean tree size), above-ground tree biomass and monthly fruit availability; and litter-fall traps to measure overall forest productivity. Many of our datasets stretch back over ten years and/or cover a number of sites. This enables long-term trends and spatial variations in relation to changes in ape populations, climate and human activities to be assessed. Such data are therefore crucial for assessing and improving the effectiveness of conservation efforts in the region.
Our studies of forest processes and functions have incorporated research on seed dispersal, including the role played by orangutans and the potential influence of fruit-bat hunting on their role as seed dispersers. It also includes studies investigating the impacts of canals and canal damming in peat-swamp forests on ecosystem hydrological function, which provides important benefits to society in terms of both fire and flood prevention.