BEFTA and RERTA Projects (www.oilpalmbiodiversity.com)
The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function in Tropical Agriculture (BEFTA) Project aims to quantify the effect of habitat complexity within oil palm plantations on biodiversity and experimentally test the role of this biodiversity on ecosystem functioning and productivity. The Riparian Ecosystem Restoration in Tropical Agriculture (RERTA) Project is experimentally testing different methods for replanting and restoring riparian buffer strips within oil palm plantations, and assessing their value for supporting biodiversity and ecosystem functions in riparian zones and streams.
Fieldwork for the projects is based in Riau, Indonesia and involves close collaboration with researchers at the Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology Research Institute (SMARTRI). The projects involve large scale experimental manipulations of the oil palm plantation landscape, alongside long term monitoring of the effects on biodiversity, ecosystem functions and oil palm yield.
The projects are already yielding interesting results, including clear impacts of understory removal on dragonfly abundance and diversity as well as the abundance of predatory assassin bugs, which are important for pest control in the plantations. Outcomes from BEFTA and RERTA Projects will be of direct relevance to conservation practitioners and agronomists and will help to inform more sustainable management practices in tropical agricultural landscapes.
Collaboration with the BCN Wildlife Trust (www.wildlifebcn.org)
Our group is collaborating with the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust to facilitate research on reserves in Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire. This includes continued analysis of butterfly survey data collected from important Bedfordshire chalk grassland reserves and an ongoing monitoring project at East Pit Nature Reserve in Cherry Hinton, Cambridge.
SAFE Project (www.safeproject.net)
The Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, is a large scale, long term forest fragmentation project run by Dr Rob Ewers, Imperial College London. It is making use of planned logging activities and conversion of the land to oil palm to create forest fragments of different sizes across the landscape, and also riparian buffer strips of different widths along streams. The effects of the clearance on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are being monitored, and the conservation value of retaining forest fragments and riparian buffer strips is being assessed.
Several Insect Ecology group members have been involved in the core research work at SAFE including initial set-up of the plots, insect trapping and vegetation plot monitoring. We are also involved with externally funded projects that make use of the SAFE experimental set-up, including work to assess the impacts of logging and oil palm on stream insect communities and the role riparian buffers can play in protecting stream systems.
Image credit: map taken from www.safeproject.net,