LEAP: Landscape Ecology and Primatology – an inter-disciplinary research programme.
Start date: 9 April 2015
Deforestation, encroachment and climate change are causing wide-scale disturbance of tropical forests, thereby accelerating climate change through impacts on the carbon cycle, and causing the extinction of species dependent on these habitats. In the face of such immediate and globally significant issues, LEAP aims to address the lack of robust scientific knowledge on how tropical deforestation and degradation affect ecosystem stability, species’ survival, and carbon pools. LEAP brings together a team of landscape ecologists, primatologists, biogeographers, and specialists in remote sensing specialists, carbon stock assessment and forest inventory. We aim to develop methods that can rapidly assess tropical forest structure and relate this to carbon stocks stored in tree biomass and to habitat quality for keystone species. We will utilise innovative new methods of acquiring detailed 3-dimensional data of tropical forests at a landscape-scale, using aerial photography from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), LiDAR systems, as well as traditional ground-based methods. The project will, for the first time, link forest structure in 3D directly to primate survival, behaviour, and distribution, and will develop cost-effective remote sensing methods using UAVs for monitoring changes in habitats. Our first pilot study showed promising results of translating point clouds obtained from overlapping photographic images into information on tree height and variation therein for Sikundur, a Sumatran lowland forest site. Currently we are collecting further ground data of vegetation structure and primate distribution and habitat use at Sikundur and improving our methods. Ultimately, LEAP aims to support primate and forest conservation worldwide.