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Research Impact

Equatorial Africa harbours the second largest expanse of rainforest on earth. The greatest threat to these forests is clearing for alternative land uses believed to bring faster development and economic growth.

The University of Stirling has been working in Gabon for more than 40 years and its station in Lopé National Park is deemed a ‘supersite’ for climate research because of its unique datasets. It has uncovered effects of climate change such as a significant decline in the fruit production of trees over the past 25 years, along with a drop in the physical condition of forest elephants.

The University of Stirling is now working with its partners in Gabon and the UK to create a research hub – forestLAB – that will support conservation-led business models for sustainable development in central Africa, enabling greater and more secure forest protection.

forestLAB will have a physical research hub in Gabon’s Loango National Park – one of the world’s critical havens of biodiversity. Led by Professor Kate Abernethy, the Stirling team will design and manage a research portfolio combining natural history, ecology, anthropology, and the social sciences. The subsequent conservation strategies will affect management across Afrotropical forests, an area approximately the size of Europe.

As well as setting up pioneering biodiversity and human impact monitoring, enabling ecological forecasting for the region, the team will use existing experience in Lopé to prepare tourism and training materials to enable expert researchers to act as forest tour guides.

forestLAB is a flagship project for Scotland’s International Environment Centre, established as part of the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal and led by the University of Stirling.