Forest restoration holds major potential to capture carbon from the atmosphere. But nature-based solutions related to forest restoration also have major pitfalls when the “how, where, and who” aspects of implementation are inappropriate. Our lab is studying a potential win-win for both the climate and biodiversity crisis: natural forest regrowth. Under this approach, forests are allowed to regrow through the natural dispersal of seeds, rather than through tree planting by people.
In this research project, we are targeting a feedback between biodiversity and carbon storage involving seed dispersal by animals. About half of plant species – and over 90% of tree species in many tropical forests – rely on animals for seed dispersal. Allowing forests to regenerate naturally following deforestation and other disturbances holds potential to increase the biodiversity of plants in a forest and their resilience to climate change. Yet the success of natural forest regrowth may also depend on the biodiversity and movement patterns of seed-dispersing animals in an area. Our ongoing research seeks to model seed dispersal by animals and its influence on the carbon trajectory of tropical forests. This work aims to increase the predictability of natural forest regrowth trajectories and identify regions where this restoration approach can be most effective.
Photo by Gandhar Thakur