Our Research

Our Research Pillars

  • Understanding
    Impacts

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    Solutions

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    Barriers

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    Technology

Climate change is a shift in our planet’s weather and climate systems that brings about increasing average temperatures and more erratic weather events, rising seas, changes inhabitats and wildlife, and a myriad of other impacts. Understanding the implications and likelihood of climate change impacts on natural and human systems in the Asia-Pacific region is important for developing strategies to safeguard the region against environmental, social and economic perturbations.

  • Drivers of global mangrove loss and gain in social-ecological systems

    Valerie Hagger, Thomas A. Worthington, Catherine E. Lovelock, Maria Fernanda Adame, Tatsuya Amano, Benjamin M. Brown, Daniel A. Friess, et al.
    Nature Communications

    This paper assesses the relationship between socioeconomic and biophysical variables and mangrove change across coastal geomorphic units worldwide from 1996 to 2016. Globally, this paper finds that drivers of loss can also be drivers of gain, and that drivers have changed over 20 years.

    Published October 2022
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  • Blue carbon science, management and policy across a tropical urban landscape

    Daniel A. Friess, Yasmine M.Gatt, Tze Kwan Fung, Danwei Huang, Valerie Kwan, Kiah Eng, Lian Pin Koh, et al.
    Landscape and Urban Planning

    The ability of vegetated coastal ecosystems to sequester high rates of “blue” carbon over millennial time scales has attracted the interest of national and international policy makers as a tool for climate change mitigation. The experiences of Singapore show that coastal ecosystems and their blue carbon stocks can be successfully managed along an urban coastline, and can help inform blue carbon science and management along other rapidly urbanizing coastlines throughout the tropics.

    Published October 2022
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  • Cross-cutting research themes for future mangrove forest research

    Farid Dahdouh-Guebas, Daniel A. Friess, Catherine E. Lovelock, Rod M. Connolly, Ilka C. Feller, Kerrylee Rogers, and Stefano Cannicci
    Nature Plants

    This paper identified the function of mangrove ecosystems that underpin ecosystem services, their responses to extreme weather and climatic events, and their role as crucial social-ecological systems as important paradigms shaping mangrove research now and in times to come.

    Published October 2022
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  • Carbon Prospecting

    Centre for Nature-based Climate Solutions, ST Engineering Geo-Insights

    A new mapping tool to identify where natural ecosystems, like tropical forests and mangroves, can be conserved to help policymakers and investors identify potential sources of high-quality carbon credits.

    Published September 2022
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  • Large-scale reforestation can increase water yield and reduce drought risk for water-insecure regions in the Asia-Pacific

    Hoong Chen Teo, Srivatsan V. Raghavan, Xiaogang He, Zhenzhong Zeng, Yanyan Cheng, Xiangzhong Luo, Alex M. Lechner, Matthew J. Ashfold, Aakash Lamba, Rachakonda Sreekar, Qiming Zheng, Anping Chen, Lian Pin Koh
    Global Change Biology

    Large-scale reforestation can potentially bring both benefits and risks to the water cycle, which needs to be better quantified under future climates to inform reforestation decisions. Reforestation also reduces the probability of extremely dry months in most of the water-insecure regions. However, some regions experience nonsignificant declines in net water yield due to heightened evapotranspiration outstripping increases in precipitation, or declines in soil moisture and advected precipitation.

    Published November 2022
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  • Temporal and spatial dynamics of tropical macroalgal contributions to blue carbon

    Valerie Kwan, Jenny Fong, Chin Soon Lionel Ng, Danwei Huang
    Science of The Total Environment

    Blue carbon ecosystems are a vital part of nature-based climate solutions due to their capacity to store and sequester carbon, but often exclude macroalgal beds even though they can form highly productive coastal ecosystems. This study demonstrates that macroalgal seasonality allows for a consistent amount of biomass carbon to either be exported and eventually sequestered, or harvested for utilization on an annual basis.

    Published July 2022
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  • Gains in biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services from the expansion of the planet’s protected areas

    Yiwen Zeng, Lian Pin Koh, David S. Wilcove
    Science Advances

    Protected areas safeguard biodiversity, ensure ecosystem functioning, and deliver ecosystem services to communities. However, only ~16% of the world’s land area is under some form of protection, prompting international calls to protect at least 30% by 2030. This paper models the outcomes of achieving this 30 × 30 target for terrestrial biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and nutrient regulation.

    Published June 2022
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  • Future land-use competition constrains natural climate solutions

    Qiming Zheng, Kelly Siman, Yiwen Zeng, Hoong Chen Teo, Tasya Vadya Sarira,
    Rachakonda Sreekar, Lian Pin Koh
    Science of the Total Environment

    With the ongoing population growth, allocating natural areas for natural climate solutions (NCS) may compete with other socioeconomic priorities, especially urban development and food security. Our results estimate a substantial reduction, 0.3–2.8 GtCO2 yr−1 or 4–39 %, in NCS mitigation potential, of which cropland expansion for fulfilling future food demand is the primary cause. This impact is particularly severe in the tropics where NCS hold the most abundant mitigation potential. Our findings highlight immediate actions prioritized to tropical areas are important to best realize NCS and are key to developing realistic and sustainable climate policies.

    Published June 2022
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  • Tropical and subtropical Asia's valued tree species under threat

    Hannes Gaisberger, Tobias Fremout, Lian Pin Koh, et al.
    Conservation Biology

    Tree diversity in Asia's tropical and subtropical forests is central to nature-based solutions. Species vulnerability to multiple threats, which affect provision of ecosystem services, is poorly understood. This paper conducted a region-wide, spatially explicit assessment of the vulnerability of 63 socioeconomically important tree species to overexploitation, fire, overgrazing, habitat conversion, and climate change.

    Published June 2022
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  • Achieving ambitious mangrove restoration targets will need a transdisciplinary and evidence-informed approach

    Daniel A. Friess, Yasmine M. Gatt, Rio Ahmad, Benjamin M. Brown, Frida Sidik, Dominic Wodehouse
    One Earth

    There are ambitious plans to restore hundreds of thousands of hectares of mangrove forests over the next 5 years to restore habitats and mitigate climate change. However, if not properly planned, such actions have the potential to fail. This paper outlines a transdisciplinary plan for mangrove restoration based on strong scientific principles.

    Published May 2022
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  • Peatland restoration as an affordable nature-based climate solution with fire reduction and conservation co-benefits in Indonesia

    Zu Dienle Tan, Roman Carrasco, Sigit Sutikno, David Taylor
    Environmental Research Letters

    Decisions over restoration must balance limited resources, land constraints, and competing demands. Peatlands in Southeast Asia have been heavily impacted by agricultural expansion over the past three decades, with Indonesia now accounting for a substantial proportion of degraded tropical peatlands globally. The results, although indicative, support tropical peatland restoration as a cost-efficient strategy for mitigating climate change, reducing fire, conserving biodiversity, and supporting sustainable development that can be offset by carbon prices of USD 2–37/Mg CO2e.

    Published May 2022
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  • Nature-based climate solutions for expanding the global protected area network

    Rachakonda Sreekar, Yiwen Zeng, Qiming Zheng, Aakash Lamba, Hoong Chen Teo, Tasya Vadya Sarira, Lian Pin Koh
    Biological Conservation

    Protected areas (including other effective area-based conservation measures) are a cornerstone of biodiversity conservation. Many countries are increasingly committed to expanding protected area coverage to 30%, which requires an increase in global annual spending from $24b to ~$140b (between $103b and $177b). Our results point to the largely untapped potential of nature-based climate solutions to accelerate protected area expansion, thereby conserving biodiversity and mitigating climate change.

    Published May 2022
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  • Are carbon offsets the key to green cryptocurrencies?

    Aakash Lamba
    PLOS Sustainability and Transformation

    Cryptocurrencies have seen a meteoric rise in their adoption and value over the past decade. However, the massive energy consumption of mining cryptocurrencies and consequently their carbon footprint is a significant environmental concern. Studies suggest that the annual carbon emissions from the Bitcoin network alone could potentially exceed 90 MtCO2e, which surpasses the total carbon footprint of some of the most populous cities in the world including Beijing, Sao Paulo and New Delhi. Due to the significant constraints that limit the future decarbonization of this sector, connecting cryptocurrencies to carbon offsets is arguably the most practical approach for mitigating their climate impact.

    Published March 2022
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  • Co-benefits of forest carbon projects in Southeast Asia

    Tasya Vadya Sarira, Yiwen Zeng, Rachel Neugarten, Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Lian Pin Koh
    Nature Sustainability

    Forest carbon projects can deliver multiple benefits to society. Within Southeast Asia, 58% of forests threatened by loss could be protected as financially viable carbon projects, which would avoid 835 MtCO2e of emissions per year from deforestation, support dietary needs for an equivalent of 323,739 people annually from pollinator-dependent agriculture, retain 78% of the volume of nitrogen pollutants in watersheds yearly and safeguard 25 Mha of Key Biodiversity Areas.

    Published February 2022
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  • Blue carbon as a natural climate solution

    Peter I. Macreadie, Micheli D. P. Costa, Trisha B. Atwood, Daniel A. Friess, Jeffrey J. Kelleway, Hilary Kennedy, Catherine E. Lovelock, Oscar Serrano, Carlos M. Duarte
    Nature Reviews Earth Environment

    Blue carbon ecosystems (BCEs) store carbon and provide co-benefits such as coastal protection and fisheries enhancement. Blue carbon sequestration has therefore been suggested as a natural climate solution. This review examines the potential for BCEs to act as carbon sinks and the opportunities to protect or restore ecosystems for this function.

    Published November 2021
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  • Extending our scientific reach in arboreal ecosystems for research and management

    Charles H. Cannon, Colby Borchetta, Jun Ying Lim, et al.
    Frontiers in Forests and Global Change

    The arboreal ecosystem is vitally important to global and local biogeochemical processes, the maintenance of biodiversity in natural systems, and human health in urban environments. The ability to collect samples, observations, and data to conduct meaningful scientific research is similarly vital. This study aims to identify the strategies that would provide the benefits to a broad range of scientists, arborists, and professional climbers and facilitate basic discovery and applied management.

    Published November 2021
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  • Economic value of illegal wildlife trade entering the USA

    Jia Hao Tow, William S. Symes, Luis Roman Carrasco
    PLoS ONE

    Illegal wildlife trade is one of the greatest threats to biodiversity. Understanding its economic value is a first step to establishing the magnitude of the problem. This paper develops a dataset of illegal wildlife trade prices and combine it with seizure data to estimate the economic value of illegal wildlife trade entering the USA.

    Published October 2021
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  • Habitat adaptation mediates the influence of leaf traits on canopy productivity: Evidence from a tropical freshwater swamp forest

    Weng Ngai Lam, Pin Jia Chan, Ying Ying Ting, Kwek Yan Chong et al.
    Ecosystems

    Functional traits offer generalizability to the prediction of ecosystem processes such as production, and community-weighted mean trait values are increasingly used for such predictions. However, the underlying causal direction between traits and ecosystem processes are often indirect and sometimes even tenuous. This study aims to uncover underlying causal mechanisms between traits, habitat adaptation and canopy productivity.

    Published September 2021
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  • A meta-analysis of the ecological and economic outcomes of mangrove restoration

    Jie Su, Daniel A. Friess, Alexandros Gasparatos
    Nature Communications

    Mangrove restoration has become a popular strategy to ensure the critical functions and economic benefits of this ecosystem. This study conducts a meta-analysis of the peer-reviewed literature on the outcomes of mangrove restoration.

    Published August 2021
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  • Large conservation opportunities exist in >90% of tropic-subtropic coastal habitats adjacent to cities

    Tessa Mazor, Daniel A.Friess, Peter A.Todd, Danwei Huang,  Nhung T.H.Nguyen, Megan I.Saunders, Rebecca K.Runting, Ryan J.Lowe, PaulaCartwright, James P.Gilmour, Catherine E.Lovelock
    One Earth

    Coastal areas are urbanizing rapidly, currently supporting >40% of the world's population. Yet, coastal cities are facing greater vulnerability to climate-change-related hazards, causing significant social and economic disruptions. Investing in the protection of existing coastal habitats is considered a low-cost nature-based solution with co-benefits for society and biodiversity. This study examines the global applicability of this solution across 5,096 coastal urban areas in tropical and subtropical regions.

    Published July 2021
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  • Telecoupled environmental impacts are an obstacle to meeting the sustainable development goals

    Yiwen Zeng, Rebecca K. Runting, James E. M. Watson, Luis Roman Carrasco
    Sustainable Development

    International trade is responsible for connecting human and natural systems across distant countries, and has profound implications for sustainability. In particular, telecoupling, the socioeconomic and environmental interactions between distant countries as a result of, among others, global trade, typically leaves less affluent nations bearing the largest environmental impacts. This paper takes a broad global network analysis approach to address this gap, and assess the vulnerability of the SDGs' indicators and their interactions to telecoupling across 180 countries.

    Published July 2021
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  • Nature-based engineering: a review on reducing coastal flood risk with mangroves

    Rik Gijsman, Erik M. Horstman, Daphne van der Wal, Daniel A. Friess, Andrew Swales, Kathelijne M. Wijnberg
    Frontiers in Marine Science

    Integration of mangroves in projects to reduce coastal flood risk is increasingly being recognised as a sustainable and cost-effective alternative. The implementation of mangroves in flood risk reduction, however, remains complex. This paper reviews existing evidence, monitoring techniques and modelling approaches from the viewpoint of mangrove functionality and persistence.

    Published July 2021
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  • A metric for spatially explicit contributions to science-based species targets

    Louise Mair, Hugh P. Possingham, Lian Pin Koh, et al.
    Nature Ecology and Evolution

    The Convention on Biological Diversity’s post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework will probably include a goal to stabilize and restore the status of species. Its delivery would be facilitated by making the actions required to halt and reverse species loss spatially explicit. This paper developed a species threat abatement and restoration (STAR) metric that is scalable across species, threats and geographies.

    Published June 2021
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  • Global potential and limits of mangrove blue carbon for climate change mitigation

    Yiwen Zeng, Daniel A.Friess, Tasya Vadya Sarira, Kelly Siman, Lian Pin Koh
    Current Biology

    Despite the outsized role of mangrove forests in sustaining biodiversity, ecosystem function, and local livelihoods, the protection of these vital habitats through blue carbon financing has been limited. This paper quantifies the extent of this missed conservation and financial opportunity, showing that the protection of ∼20% of the world’s mangrove forests (2.6 Mha) can be funded through carbon financing.

    Published April 2021
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  • Climate-informed hydrologic modeling and policy typology to guide managed aquifer recharge

    Xiaogang He, Benjamin P. Bryant, Tara Moran, Katharine J. Mach, Zhongwang Wei, David L. Freyberg
    Science  Advances

    Harvesting floodwaters to recharge depleted groundwater aquifers can simultaneously reduce flood and drought risks and enhance groundwater sustainability. However, deployment of this multibeneficial adaptation option is fundamentally constrained by how much water is available for recharge (WAFR) at present and under future climate change. This paper develops a climate-informed and policy-relevant framework to quantify WAFR, its uncertainty, and associated policy actions.

    Published April 2021
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  • Species awareness days: Do people care or are we preaching to the choir?

    Marcus A.H.Chua, AudreyTan, Luis Roman Carrasco
    Biological Conservation

    Biodiversity awareness days are awareness-raising interventions of increasing popularity, but what makes an awareness day campaign successful has been overlooked. This paper seeks to determine (1) if species or taxa awareness days led to awareness proxied by engagement for information, (2) if some awareness days were more effective than others, and the possible reasons for success, and (3) if awareness days led to positive conservation action.

    Published March 2021
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  • Southeast Asia as one of world’s primary sources of biotic recolonization following Anthropocene extinctions

    Şerban Proches, Syd Ramdhani, Alice C. Hughes, Lian Pin Koh
    Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

    The plight of Southeast Asia’s animals, plants and ecosystems in the face of unsustainable exploitation and habitat destruction has been illustrated in several recent studies, despite often falling outside the global discourse on global conservation priorities. This paper collated biogeographic and phylogenetic information to argue that this beleaguered region is one of world’s primary macrorefugia, and possibly its best chance of regaining its natural biodiversity distribution patterns after the current Anthropocene upheaval.

    Published March 2021
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  • Future carbon emissions from global mangrove forest loss

    Maria F. Adame, Rod M. Connolly, Mischa P. Turschwell, Catherine E. Lovelock, Temilola Fatoyinbo, David Lagomasino, Liza A. Goldberg, Jordan Holdorf, Daniel A. Friess, Sigit D. Sasmito, Jonathan Sanderman, Michael Sievers, Christina Buelow, J. Boone Kauffman, Dale Bryan-Brown, Christopher J. Brown
    Global Change Biology

    Mangroves have among the highest carbon densities of any tropical forest. Incorporating mangroves into Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement and their valuation on carbon markets requires predicting how the management of different land-uses can prevent future greenhouse gas emissions and increase CO2 sequestration. This paper integrates comprehensive global datasets for carbon stocks, mangrove distribution, deforestation rates, and land-use change drivers into a predictive model of mangrove carbon emissions.

    Published February 2021
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  • Carbon prospecting in tropical forests for climate change mitigation

    Lian Pin Koh, Yiwen Zeng, Tasya Vadya Sarira, Kelly Siman
    Nature Communications

    Carbon finance projects that protect tropical forests could support both nature conservation and climate change mitigation goals. Global demand for nature-based carbon credits is outpacing their supply, due partly to gaps in knowledge needed to inform and prioritize investment decisions. This paper shows that at current carbon market prices the protection of tropical forests can generate investible carbon amounting to 1.8 (±1.1) GtCO2e yr−1 globally, and financially viable carbon projects could generate return-on-investment amounting to $46.0b y−1 in net present value. However, ~80% (1.24 billion ha) of forest carbon sites would be financially unviable for failing to break even over the project lifetime. From a conservation perspective, unless carbon prices increase in the future, it is imperative to implement other conservation interventions, in addition to carbon finance, to safeguard carbon stocks and biodiversity in vulnerable forests.

    Published February 2021
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  • Global urban reforestation can be an important natural climate solution

    Hoong Chen Teo, Yiwen Zeng, Tasya Vadya Sarira, Tze Kwan Fung, Qiming Zheng, Xiao Ping Song, Kwek Yan Chong, Lian Pin Koh
    Environmental Research Letters

    The climate mitigation potential of urban nature-based solutions (NBSs) is often perceived as insignificant and thus overlooked, as cities primarily pursue NBSs for local ecosystem services. This paper modelled the global potential and limits of urban reforestation worldwide, and find that 10.9 ± 2.8 Mha of land (17.6% of all city areas) are suitable for reforestation, which would offset 82.4 ± 25.7 MtCO2e yr−1 of carbon emissions.

    Published February 2021
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  • The value of China’s ban on wildlife trade and consumption

    Lian Pin Koh, Yuhan Li, Janice Ser Huay Lee
    Nature Sustainability

    China’s decision to ban the trade and consumption of terrestrial wild animals, while controversial, is a viable response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ban has implications that extend beyond safeguarding human health to also help combat illegal wildlife trade and protect threatened species.

    Published January 2021
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  • Conservation cost-effectiveness: a review of the evidence base

    Thomas Pienkowski, Carly Cook, Megha Verma, Luis Roman Carrasco
    Conservation Science and Practice

    Prioritizing conservation interventions based on their cost-effectiveness may enhance global conservation impact. To do this prioritization, conservation decision-makers need evidence of what works where and how much it costs. Yet, the size, representativeness, and strength of the cost-effectiveness evidence base are unknown. This paper reviews conservation cost-effectiveness studies, exploring the representation of different types of conservation interventions, habitats and locations, and the methods used.

    Published January 2021
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  • Leaf litter decomposition in tropical freshwater swamp forests is slower in swamp than non-swamp conditions

    Weng Ngai Lam, Jun Jie Lian, Pin Jia Chan, Ying Ying Ting, Rie Chong, Nur Estya Rahman, Lorraine Wen Ai Tan, Qian Yi Ho, Sorain J. Ramchunder, Kelvin S.-H. Peh, Yixiong Cai, Kwek Yan Chong
    Biotropica

    Decomposition is a key ecosystem function, and the rate of decomposition in forests affects their carbon storage potentials. Processes and factors determining leaf litter decomposition rates in dry-land and temperate forests are well understood, but these are generally poorly studied in tropical wetland forests, especially freshwater swamp forests (FSF). This study collected leaf litter from swamp and non-swamp tree species in a tropical FSF in Singapore and monitored the decomposition rates of these in swamp and non-swamp plots for a period of eight months.

    Published January 2021
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  • Artificial light at night advances spring phenology in the United States

    Qiming Zheng, Hoong Chen Teo, Lian Pin Koh
    Remote Sensing

    Plant phenology is closely related to light availability as diurnal and seasonal cycles are essential environmental cues for organizing bio-ecological processes. The natural cycles of light, however, have been dramatically disrupted by artificial light at night (ALAN) due to recent urbanization. The influence on plant phenology of ALAN and its spatial variation remain largely unknown. By analyzing satellite data on ALAN intensity across the United States, this paper showed that ALAN tended to advance the start date of the growing season (SOS), although the overall response of SOS to ALAN was relatively weak compared with other potential factors.

    Published January 2021
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  • The environmental impacts of palm oil in context

    Erik Meijaard, Thomas M. Brooks, Janice Ser Huay Lee, Lian Pin Koh et al.
    Nature Plants

    Delivering the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires balancing demands on land between agriculture (SDG 2) and biodiversity (SDG 15). The production of vegetable oils and, in particular, palm oil, illustrates these competing demands and trade-offs. This Review highlights that although substantial gaps remain in our understanding of the relationship between the environmental, socio-cultural and economic impacts of oil palm, and the scope, stringency and effectiveness of initiatives to address these, there has been little research into the impacts and trade-offs of other vegetable oil crops.

    Published December 2020
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  • Economic and social constraints on reforestation for climate mitigation in Southeast Asia

    Yiwen Zeng, Tasya Vadya Sarira, L. Roman Carrasco, Kwek Yan Chong, Daniel A. Friess, Janice Ser Huay Lee, Pierre Taillardat, Thomas A. Worthington, Yuchen Zhang, Lian Pin Koh
    Nature Climate Change

    As climate change continues to threaten human and natural systems, the search for cost-effective and practical mitigation solutions is gaining momentum. Reforestation has recently been identified as a promising nature-based climate solution. Yet there are context-dependent biophysical, financial, land-use and operational constraints to reforestation that demand careful consideration. This paper shows that 121 million ha of presently degraded land in Southeast Asia, a region noted for its significant reforestation potential, are biophysically suitable for reforestation.

    Published August 2020
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  • Protecting irrecoverable carbon in Earth’s ecosystems

    Allie Goldstein, Will R. Turner, Seth A. Spawn, Lian Pin Koh et al.
    Nature Climate Change

    Avoiding catastrophic climate change requires rapid decarbonization and improved ecosystem stewardship. To achieve the latter, ecosystems should be prioritized by responsiveness to direct, localized action and the magnitude and recoverability of their carbon stores. This paper shows that a range of ecosystems contain ‘irrecoverable carbon’ that is vulnerable to release upon land use conversion and, once lost, is not recoverable on timescales relevant to avoiding dangerous climate impacts.

    Published March 2020
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