Ecosystem services across contrasting forested landscapes in Queensland's Wet Tropics Bioregion: contemporary patterns, processes and likely future trends under a changing climate

Alamgir, Mohammed (2016) Ecosystem services across contrasting forested landscapes in Queensland's Wet Tropics Bioregion: contemporary patterns, processes and likely future trends under a changing climate. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

Ecosystem services are the benefits human communities receive from ecosystems that comprise of both goods and services. Forests provide numerous ecosystem services which are necessary for human well-being. Examples include global climate regulation, air quality regulation, cyclone protection, habitat provision, timber and energy. The supplies of most ecosystem services from forested ecosystems are declining across the globe. Furthermore, the rate of decline is higher in tropical forested areas than other forest biomes. The main reasons for this decline are climate change, forest degradation, land use and land cover change and, most importantly, the reduced focus on the sustainable management of ecosystem services. Ecosystem services from forested landscapes are supplied as a complex interaction between forest vegetation attributes and environmental factors, and interactions among various ecosystem services. Ecosystem services management in natural resource management planning is not well addressed due to the lack of scientific information on the nature and distribution of ecosystem services, poor understanding of the supply of ecosystem services processes and unknown trends of ecosystem services under future climate change scenarios.

In this doctoral thesis, I investigated ecosystem services supply across a complex forested landscape, their interactions, and likely trends of ecosystem services under future climate change scenarios. The study was based in the contrasting forested landscape of the Wet Tropics bioregion in northeast Australia. The study was focused on five objectives: (1) to assess the supply of multiple ecosystem services from rainforests, sclerophyll forests and rehabilitated plantation forests, and how they are spatially distributed across the landscape; (2) to investigate the interactions among multiple ecosystem services and how the supply of one ecosystem service is influenced by others; (3) to evaluate the capacities of different Land Use and Land Covers (LULC) to supply ecosystem services, and to identify the spatial congruence between ecosystem services and biodiversity in the landscape; (4) to compare the carbon storage among rainforests, degraded rainforests and sclerophyll forests and to determine the drivers of carbon storage in this tropical forested landscape; (5) to determine the likely effects of climate change on ecosystem services supplied from rainforests and sclerophyll forests. To achieve these objectives, I collected forest vegetation attribute data from 66 forest plots (0.05 ha each, 50m×10m transects) over a two-year period (2013-2014), collected current spatial datasets about forest distribution, interviewed different stakeholders, and arranged a forest experts workshop (September 2015) at James Cook University, Cairns. I analysed the collected data using a range of statistical-R, SPSS 20, PC-ORD6, and spatial software-ESRI ArcGIS 10.2. I utilized OzClim and Climate Futures online software tools for Australia for the climate change modelling.

My study revealed that the supply of global climate regulation, air quality regulation, nutrient regulation, cyclone protection, habitat provision, energy provision and timber provision ecosystem services were found to be significantly higher in rainforests than sclerophyll forests, while erosion regulation ecosystem services were significantly higher in sclerophyll forests than rainforests. The results also showed that rehabilitated plantation forests may provide some ecosystem services that are comparable to rainforests. In the investigation of spatial distributions and patterns, I found that all examined ecosystem services were unevenly distributed and differed considerably both within the same forest type and among the different forest types. The hotspots (supply of significantly higher ecosystem services) for multiple ecosystem services were found in upland rainforests followed by lowland rainforests and upland sclerophyll forests in the study region.

In understanding the interactions among multiple ecosystem services, my research revealed that the global climate regulation ecosystem service had a synergistic impact on the supply of remaining examined ecosystem services while nutrient regulation ecosystem service emerged as having a trade-offs impact. Overall, among eight examined ecosystem services two synergy groups and one trade-off group were identified. I found that elevation, rainfall and temperature gradients, along with forest structure and type, were the main determinants for the quantity of ecosystem services supplied in the landscape.

In the investigation of the spatial congruence between ecosystem services and biodiversity at the landscape scale, my research revealed that a spatial congruence occurred between high-potential biodiversity and high-potential global climate regulation ecosystem service in the intact rainforest areas, while spatial divergence occurred in the sclerophyll and other disturbed and low tree abundance forested areas.

In the evaluation of above ground biomass carbon storage, I found that some degraded rainforests stored similar amounts of above ground biomass carbon like intact rainforests while sclerophyll forests stored lower carbon than intact rainforests as well as heavily degraded rainforests. I also found that large trees and tree abundance are the major drivers of above ground carbon storage in this tropical forested landscape.

In the investigation of the likely effects of climate change on the future supply of ecosystem services, I found that the supplies of most ecosystem services from rainforests in this region are likely to be reduced due to future climate change, while uncertainty exists for the supply of ecosystem services from sclerophyll forests. Additionally, the ecosystem services supplied from the upland rainforests are likely to be more negatively affected than lowland rainforests.

The outcomes of this doctoral thesis indicate that active conservation of rainforests needs to occur, with more emphasis placed on protecting the upland rainforests. Rehabilitated forests are also worth protecting for ecosystem services supply, and increasing structural diversity in the sclerophyll forests is likely to increase ecosystem services supply. My research also concludes that management intervention to maximize the supply of global climate regulation and habitat provision ecosystem services are likely to maximize the supply of other examined ecosystem services in the forested landscape. My research suggests that an integration of high-potential multiple ecosystem services supply and high–potential biodiversity conservation may be possible in the tropical forested landscape provided that the multiple ecosystem services are forest-based (e.g. global climate regulation, air quality regulation, and habitat provision). Appropriate climate change adaptation, specially focusing on the ecosystem services supplied from rainforests, needs to occur without any further delay.

Item ID: 46890
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: adaptation, Australia, climate change, ecosystem services, environmental gradient, global climate regulation, habitat provision, land-use change, pattern, rehabilitated plantation forest, sclerophyll forest, stakeholder involvement, synergies
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Chapter 1: Alamgir, Mohammed, Pert, Petina L., and Turton, Stephen M. (2014) A review of ecosystem services research in Australia reveals a gap in integrating climate change and impacts on ecosystem services. The International Journal of Biodiversity Science, Ecosystems Services & Management, 10 (2). pp. 112-127.

Chapter 2: Alamgir, Mohammed, Turton, Stephen M., Macgregor, Colin J., and Pert, Petina L. (2016) Assessing regulating and provisioning ecosystem services in a contrasting tropical forest landscape. Ecological Indicators, 64. pp. 319-334.

Chapter 4: Alamgir, Mohammed, Turton, Stephen M., Macgregor, Colin J., and Pert, Petina L. (2016) Ecosystem services capacity across heterogeneous forest types: understanding the interactions and suggesting pathways for sustaining multiple ecosystem services. Science of the Total Environment, 566-567. pp. 584-595.

Chapter 5: Alamgir, Mohammed, Campbell, Mason J., Turton, Stephen M., Pert, Petina L., Edwards, Will, and Laurance, William F. (2016) Degraded tropical rain forests possess valuable carbon storage opportunities in a complex, forested landscape. Scientific Reports, 6. pp. 1-10.

Date Deposited: 18 Jan 2017 04:11
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050104 Landscape Ecology @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 30%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 20%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960307 Effects of Climate Change and Variability on Australia (excl. Social Impacts) @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960505 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Forest and Woodlands Environments @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960302 Climate Change Mitigation Strategies @ 20%
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