Reptile and Amphibian Program Sierra Leone (RAPSL) has successfully completed fieldwork for the USAID-funded grant ‘Building Capacity to Monitor Forest Vegetation and Carbon Change in the Upper Guinea Forest’ under the West Africa Biodiversity and Low Emissions Development program. This took the RAP-SL field team seven months as planned to accomplish this task covering Gola Rainforest National Park (GRNP) in Sierra Leone, Gola Forest National Park in Liberia (GFNP), Soyah-Sobouya Forest in Guinea, Outamba Kilimi National Park (OKNP) in Sierra Leone, Massif du Ziama in Guinea, Wonegizi-Wologizi in Liberia, Sapo National Park (SNP) in Liberia, Grebo-Krahn National Park (GKNP) in Liberia, Tai National Park (TNP) in Cote D’Ivoire and Cavally Classified Forest (CCF) in Cote D’Ivoire. Fieldwork ended in April 2023 at Tai and Cavally Classified Forest in Côte d’Ivoire.
Forests play a critical role in mitigating climate change by capturing carbon dioxide and storing carbon within trees known as Above Ground Biomass (AGB) and in tree roots and soils known as Below Ground Biomass (BGB). This total is known as forest biomass and/or forest total carbon stocks.
Our field activities were based on three approaches:
- . Community perceptions through Focus Group Discussion (FGD),
- Accessing deforestation/degradation rates through Temporal Sample Plots of fallows between 5 – 7 years and 10 – 15 years. This will also enable us to understand tree diversity, carbon stocks, species for restorations, fuelwood, timber and charcoal production in the fallows.
- Permanent Sample Plots (PSPs) were to understand tree diversity, forest structure, and carbon stocks in pristine and/or intact forest which were all protected forest. The PSPs are unique in Forest dynamics and/or long-term monitoring of the forest. These data will help to develop growth models that will support government policies and management strategies in the Mano River Union (MRU) landscape. This study in future will help scientists to justify the importance of forests and trees in fighting climate change and help describe how these forests can be preserved
What has been achieved?
One of the key objectives of this project was to build capacity of students, lecturers and organizations involved in forestry in Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. In total 45 trainees were trained from 20 institutions from the four countries.
They were trained in FGD and community engagement, TSPs in fallows of 5 – 7 years, and 10 – 15 years and PSPs techniques in pristine and/or in-tact forest in both dry forest of Soyah- Sabouya and Outamba Kilimi and rainforest in the rest six protected areas. Trainees were also trained in botanical plant techniques and management. Plant collection, naming, preparation of field notebook, specimens pressing and drying, and how specimens are managed after drying both in the field and in the herbarium. At all sites, plant specimens were collected which are now awaiting detail identification in the herbarium by matching specimens in the different herbaria, the use of flora guide, monographs and floras. Trainees were also trained on basic forest ethics, camp selection, establishment and management.
In the TSPs, all trees ≥10 cm at Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) in plots of 20 x 50 m were measured with the aid of a diameter tape, identified to morphospecies but not tagged. In PSPs, all trees with DBH ≥10 cm were measured with the aid of a diameter tape, tagged, painted at point of measurement, and identified into morphospecies. All buttress trees were measured at least 30 – 50 cm above the last buttress with the help of a 10 m ladder, diameter tape and painted at the point of measurement. Soil samples were collected at three corners of the four corners of the plot at a depth of 30 cm with the aid of a soil core. In all 18 soils samples were collected per plot.
In seven months, this team was able to cover 16 ha of PSPs, 160 TSPs of 20×50 m (16 ha), FGD in 40 communities, 288 soil samples in nine protected area and one commercial logging forest in four MRU countries.
The next phase after data collection is data entry, cleaning, analysis, structuring of the technical report, drafting of peer review publications and establishment of two databases: one for Forest Plots and a metadata database for Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). RAP-SL hope to round up with this project as plan in November 2024. These plots are now living laboratories in the region for futuristic studies and monitoring.
This project- Building Capacity to Monitor Forest Vegetation and Carbon Change in the Upper Guinea Forest was commissioned to Reptile and Amphibian Program Sierra Leone (RAPSL) by the West Africa Biodiversity and Low Emission Development (WABiLED) program and fully funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).