Restoring degraded tropical forests generates big carbon gains

August 14, 2020

More than half of the world's aboveground carbon is stored in tropical forests, the degradation of which poses a direct threat to global climate regulation. Deforestation removes aboveground carbon in the form of trees, reducing the size of global carbon stocks in the process. Once forests are degraded, they are often perceived to have little ecological value, despite evidence of their ability to continue to provide important ecosystem services and to store significant amounts of carbon.

This misconception has marked degraded forests as prime candidates for full conversion to agricultural plantations, but recent research challenges this idea and offers a promising alternative — forest restoration is a more sustainable solution capable of both replenishing carbon storage and preserving biodiversity. While this concept isn't new, the adoption of restoration practices has been impeded by uncertainties over its effectiveness. Dipterocarp seedlings Dipterocarp seeds are collected in primary forest and grown in nurseries to provide sufficient planting material for large-scale restoration efforts. Credit: Michael O'Brien / SEARRP

Now, an international team of scientists from 13 institutions, including researchers from the Arizona State University Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science, has provided the first long-term comparison of aboveground carbon recovery rates between naturally regenerating and actively restored forests in Southeast Asia. The researchers found that restoration practices improved carbon storage recovery by more than 50% compared to natural regeneration. The paper was published Aug. 14 in Science.

"Not long ago, we treated degraded tropical forests as lost causes. Our new findings, combined with those of other researchers around the world, strongly suggest that restoring tropical forests is a viable and highly scalable solution to regaining lost carbon stocks on land," said Greg Asner, co-author of the paper and center director.

The researchers studied an area of tropical forest in Malaysian Borneo, where agricultural activities have caused soaring deforestation rates for years. The study site was heavily logged in the 1980s and subsequently protected from further logging or conversion to plantation agriculture. To assess forest recovery, Asner and his team mapped the area using their Global Airborne Observatory, equipped with powerful lasers and spectrometers, in 2016. The resulting maps revealed the location and amount of carbon stored aboveground across thousands of hectares of forest.

Areas left to regenerate naturally recovered by as much as 2.9 tons of aboveground carbon per hectare of forest each year, highlighting the ability of degraded forests to recover if protected from full agricultural conversion.

First author Chris Philipson, of the University of Dundee and the ETH Zurich, said, "This quantitatively confirms that if degraded forests get effective protection, they can recover well naturally."

Even more importantly, the researchers found that forest areas that underwent active restoration recovered 50% faster, from 2.9 to 4.4 tons of aboveground carbon per hectare per year. Restoration methods included planting native tree species, removing tree-climbing vines, and thinning vegetation around saplings to improve their chances of survival. Full ACD recovery in a naturally regenerating logged forest would take around 60 years, while recovery for an actively restored forest takes just 40 years.

This is the first time that a long time-series dataset has been used to demonstrate that active restoration helps the regeneration of forests after logging and other disturbances. However, the current carbon price is still not sufficient to pay for the cost of restoration, limiting the impact that this approach can have on the climate change crisis. However, new carbon offset programs could potentially fund these restoration costs.

"Science has laid out a clear pathway for land managers. We now must turn to the economics of the problem to generate the support to pursue these solutions," Asner said. "Restoring degraded tropical forest works to mitigate climate change, and it saves biodiversity along the way."

Heather D'Angelo

Communications director, Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science

ASU's business school reputation attracts student from the Philippines

Jerome Raphael Cabacungan’s path to ASU was guided by community college transfer program

August 14, 2020

Not every path to ASU is a straight shot. Jerome Raphael Cabacungan’s path began in the Philippines, where he was born and raised. When his parents moved to the U.S. two years ago, he was left with a big decision: stay in his native country and finish college there, or take his chances and follow them to Phoenix.

Ultimately, it was the stellar reputation of ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business that swayed the computer information systems major to choose the latter. ASU student Jerome Raphael Cabacungan playing guitar Jerome Raphael Cabacungan Download Full Image

But before Cabacungan could jump into life on the Tempe campus, he enrolled at Estrella Mountain Community College to earn the credits he needed to be accepted to ASU. There, he utilized the MyPath2ASU program to help navigate his way to ASU.

“My ASU transfer specialist and community college academic adviser were able to help me finish the program and earn two associate degrees within a year of my admission at Estrella Mountain Community College,” he said, adding that the experience was “seamless.”

Now, he’s ready to hit the books as an official Sun Devil — and he’s bringing his guitar, basketball and camera with him.

Question: Why did you choose to transfer to ASU?

Answer: W. P. Carey is one of the best business schools in the country, and that sealed the deal for me. I have friends who have graduated from ASU and they mentioned that professors are really accommodating to their students’ needs.

Q: What drew you to your major?

A: I decided to study computer information systems because it is challenging and it covers some of my interests, such as cybersecurity, programming, business and mathematics. CIScomputer information systems is versatile, which means I can have a plethora of choices in terms of career path. I can be an expert in various areas in both the business and computer field. The world of business and technology keeps on evolving, and this is going to sound cheesy, but I would love to be part of that growth.

Q: What are you most excited to experience your first semester?

A: Food, making new friends and attending the events that the university has in store for the ASU community.

Q: What do you like to brag about to friends about ASU?

A: The great hot dog sandwiches at Dave’s Doghouse, the pool tables in the Memorial Union and the awesome fitness centers.

Q: What talents and skills are you bringing to the ASU community?

A: I believe I can influence the community at ASU with my principles and mindset. I can also use my leadership skills inside and outside of the classroom. In terms of talents, I play basketball, I am musically inclined and lastly, I’m into photography. If the ASU community needs extra muscle in those areas, I’ll be happy to help!

Raphael Cabacungan

Q: What do you hope to accomplish during your college years?

A: I want to be on the Dean’s List and finish strong in college. I would also love to build a network with my fellow students and professors. A strong network can set me up for a good future.

Q: What’s one interesting fact about yourself that only your friends know?

A: I started college when I was 16, which was seven years ago. I have attended three years of university in the Philippines and one year of community college here in Arizona.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem in our world, what would you choose?

A: I would choose to solve poverty. Solving poverty also helps cover issues like hunger and homelessness. With $40 million, I could invest in some charitable organizations that fight poverty. I could also help build support centers in countries with extreme poverty as safe havens that provide poor people temporary shelter and food. Being able to assist the poor during their struggle can help them get a better chance in life.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

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