Two more position (of the four) in the NWO Graduate Program on Nature Conservation, Management and Restoration, have been filled. In January 2017 John O'Connor and Joeri Zwerts started their PhD research.
John’s research focuses on the value of the Amazon rainforest as a provider and regulator of hydrological services. Following photosynthesis moisture is returned to the atmosphere which can then precipitate as rain further inland. This process “moisture recycling” helps support the forest itself but is also vital to humans by providing water for agriculture, hydropower and consumption. However, this system is under threat as increasing demand for agriculture pushes pasture and crop plantations into the forest boundaries. By researching the mechanisms of the moisture recycling system and how changes in land-cover effect the provision of this service, John wants to provide a framework to support conservation. John will work in the Environmental Sciences group.
Joeri Zwerts will study the ecological impacts of certified forest management. He will focus on FSC certification in Central Africa and to what extent this contributes to the conservation of large mammals such as African forest elephants, gorillas and chimpanzees. Tropical forests often suffer from a lack of government control and law enforcement. One way to get a grip on the management of these ecosystems is through the use of certification, whereby timber producers respect a certain set of socio-economic and environmental standards to receive a market based price premium. It has however never been studied how these extra regulations indeed effectuate themselves in improved ecological conditions. This study will provide insights in this matter. Furthermore do the study species all perform highly unique and important structuring functions in Central African forests. Their conservation status serves as a good indicator for the overall state of the ecosystem. Unfortunately, they have to a large extent been decimated over the last few decades, making their conservation a top priority and yet another reason to study the best way to realistically conserve the remaining populations. Joeri works at the Ecology & Biodiversity group.
The NWO funded Graduate Programme Nature Conservation, Management and Restoration provides funding for four PhD projects. The Graduate Programme is part of the Utrecht University Academy of Ecosystem Services, a platform that combines knowledge institutes, NGO’s for nature conservation and other societal partners to provide solutions to issues related to ecosystem services.