LEAP: Landscape Ecology and Primatology – An Inter-Disciplinary Research Project

Authors: Korstjens, A.H., Hill, R., Wich, S.A. and Nowak, M.

Start date: 21 August 2016

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, 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. LEAP projects 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 projects focus on primates (especially orang-utans, gibbons, siamangs, and Thomas langurs) in Sikundur, a Sumatran lowland forest site; elephants in the Sumatran Leuser Ecosystem; and savannah chimpanzees in Toro-Semliki in Uganda. Ultimately, LEAP aims to support primate and forest conservation worldwide.

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