Avoided Deforestation promises to be one of the biggest talking points at Bali. Key negotiations about the framework needed to allow key nations to claim carbon credits for protecting pristine rainforests are expected to take place. Until now credits have only been awarded to projects which mitigate carbon emissions from the atmosphere, not through preservation of vast areas of rainforests capable of absorbing vast quantities of CO2.
The world's rainforests are one of the most important ecosystems on the planet, arguably the most important, and often referred to as the 'lungs of the planet' because of their ability to uptake carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. ECI plays a leading role in understanding the dynamics and ecology of such forests, and is involved in large-scale monitoring projects within the Amazon region to better understand the ecological and climatological changes taking place in these important regions.
Professor Yadvinder Malhi leads the Ecosystems Dynamics team at ECI. The team consists of 17 researchers all working to further these scientific questions, and build a networked monitoring system within the Amazon. In the last two years the team has received over £1.5 million in funding to further this research, including a £750K grant in November 2007 from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to monitor carbon cycling in the Amazon. The project will fund researchers within native Amazonian countries as well as research posts within Oxford.
In 2006 the ECI hosted a conference on Avoided Deforestation and the Fate of the Amazon. This three-day conference brought together scientists from the social and physical sectors all over the world to discuss the challenges and current understanding of these complex tropical systems in light of a changing climate. The evidence that tropical forests are already being affected by climate change was presented. One of the big problems discussed at the conference was that climate change is occurring at the same time as deforestation, and this is creating important and dangerous synergies. These findings act as the evidence base for creating a market in carbon credits for key countries that reduce their deforestation rates. More about this can be read in Yadvinder Maliís commentary of the Fate of the Amazon published in Science in November 2007.