Tropical Forest biodiversity baselines for evidence-based conservation

Tropical Forest biodiversity baselines for evidence-based conservation

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
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Dates / Project duration

January 2022 - December 2024 / 3 years

Field of action :

Combating deforestation

Branch :


Location :

Remaining Intact Tropical Forest Landscapes including, but not limited to: Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Myanmar, India, Madagascar, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Brazil, French Guiana, Colombia

Project sponsor(s) :

The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System


We are in the middle of a human-caused mass extinction of species, the stopping of which is one of the connecting threads of all conservation efforts. Tropical forests are at the front-line of extinctions: spanning 12% of Earth’s land, they harbor over half of terrestrial species.

Counter-intuitively, most conservation efforts in tropical forests do not measure how effective they are in terms of biodiversity protection. This is because objectively monitoring a wide range of taxa in tropical forests is hard and expensive. Deforestation, often used as a substitute measure of success in biodiversity conservation, can be quantified through satellites. However, even the highest resolution imagery cannot ‘see’ inside the forest, where biodiversity may be undergoing dramatic losses due to poor logging practices, hunting, under-story fires, and climate change. Alternatively, biodiversity can be recovering due to effective conservation efforts or when humans abandon the area.

Compounding this problem is the lack of reliable biodiversity baselines in tropical forests, against which positive changes due to conservation, and negative impacts due to human pressure, could be measured.

The long-term objective is to develop a robust tool for measuring changes in biodiversity in tropical forests against rigorous baselines. The goal of the current project is to spearhead a scalable protocol, involving local and indigenous scientists, to collect and analyze biodiversity baselines in the world’s remaining intact tropical forests, using cutting edge technologies.

The team of the Project will i) optimize the sampling protocol for biodiversity baselines; ii) create a list of priority sites for baselines across the remaining intact tropical forests. With a network of local scientists, they will iii) establish biodiversity baselines at 10+ pilot locations, by providing baseline kits and interactive tutorials to participants. It will iv) carry out a collaborative analysis of the global biodiversity baselines for tropical forests. Establishing rigorous biodiversity baselines is fundamental to ground biodiversity conservation in an evidence-based and transparent approach.