Nature Conservation Research Center

Accra, Ghana

Nature Conservation Research Center

Accra, Ghana

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ASARE R.,International Institute Of Tropical Agriculture | ASARE R.,Copenhagen University | ASARE R.A.,Nature Conservation Research Center | ASANTE W.A.,Kwame Nkrumah University Of Science And Technology | And 2 more authors.
Experimental Agriculture | Year: 2016

Most cocoa farms in Ghana are cultivated in complex agroforest systems, with plant growth and cocoa productivity being affected. The objective of this study was to investigate how shade trees affect cocoa yield, temperature and soil nutrients in low-input cocoa systems. Establishing plots on 24 farms in four locations (districts) in Ghana, we assessed the influence of varying canopy cover and fertilization on cocoa yields. Results showed no relationship between canopy cover and cocoa yields in the light crop season (February to August). For the main crop season (September to January), there was an interaction between shade and yields: Yields were higher on no-shade plots than on shaded plots in two districts, whilst there were no differences at the two other districts possibly due to differences in precipitation and soil nutrient status. On the other hand, there was a positive effect of increased canopy cover on yields within the shaded plots. Soil nutrient analyses revealed no significant differences between shaded and no-shade plots and adequate levels of N, K+, Fe2+, Cu2+ and Zn2+ were recorded. However, soil contents of P, C, Mg2+ and Ca2+ were below recommended values. Peak temperatures recorded in the cocoa canopies were above the recommended range for this species. Although shade trees had a slight modifying effect on peak temperatures, the magnitude appeared too small to have any practical effects. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Norris K.,University of Reading | Asase A.,University of Ghana | Collen B.,UK Institute of Zoology | Gockowksi J.,International Institute Of Tropical Agriculture | And 3 more authors.
Biological Conservation | Year: 2010

The biodiversity of West African rainforests is globally significant but poorly described, little understood in terms of its functional significance, and under threat from forest loss and degradation. Estimates suggest that about 10 million ha of forest may have been lost in the 20th Century, and around 80% of the original forest area is now an agriculture-forest mosaic. These highly modified forests provide food, fuel, fibre and a range of ecosystem services for over 200 million people. As a consequence, the future of biodiversity in the region is intimately linked with the lives and livelihoods of local people. The available evidence suggests that forest loss and degradation has been caused primarily by agricultural expansion, sometimes facilitated by other human activities such as wood extraction. This expansion is a response to the demand generated by a growing and increasingly urbanised human population, but has been exacerbated by small increases in crop yields over recent decades. We synthesize and review our state of knowledge on the value of human-modified habitats for forest biodiversity in the region. Data on biodiversity are patchy, but we show that across plant, invertebrate and vertebrate groups, there is a significant loss of forest species as tree cover is reduced and vegetation structure simplified. Agricultural expansion clearly causes significant local biodiversity loss. We argue that replicated landscape-scale studies are now needed that describe changes across a range of biodiversity groups (above and below ground) in relation to land-use and landscape context to address knowledge gaps and biases. Such descriptive studies need to be complemented by a deeper understanding of the causes of species turnover patterns, together with work on the consequences of biodiversity loss for ecosystem function and services. Biodiversity conservation in the region is becoming increasingly embedded within a more multi-functional view of agriculture-forest mosaics that attempts to recognise and value the range of services provided by tree cover and other land-uses. This relatively new perspective has the potential, at least in principle, to re-shape the drivers of land-use change because tree cover can generate additional revenue through carbon trading or certification schemes. It will become clearer over the coming decades whether this potential can be realised, but the implications for biodiversity conservation in the region are potentially profound. The socio-economic processes that have driven forest loss and degradation in West Africa are having an increasing impact on the relatively undisturbed rainforest of the Congo Basin. We conclude by pointing out that while West African forest landscapes are a potent reminder of what might happen in Central Africa in the near future, they also provide insights for developing policies and practice that might avoid comparable levels of forest loss and degradation. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.


Malhi Y.,University of Oxford | Adu-Bredu S.,Forestry Research Institute of Ghana | Asare R.A.,Nature Conservation Research Center | Lewis S.L.,University College London | And 2 more authors.
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2013

The rainforests are the great green heart of Africa, and present a unique combination of ecological, climatic and human interactions. In this synthesis paper, we review the past and present state processes of change in African rainforests, and explore the challenges and opportunities for maintaining a viable future for these biomes. We drawin particular on the insights and new analyses emerging from the Theme Issue on 'African rainforests: past, present and future' of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. A combination of features characterize the African rainforest biome, including a history of climate variation; forest expansion and retreat; a long history of human interaction with the biome; a relatively low plant species diversity but large tree biomass; a historically exceptionally high animal biomass that is now being severely hunted down; the dominance of selective logging; small-scale farming and bushmeat hunting as the major forms of direct human pressure; and, in Central Africa, the particular context of mineral- and oil-driven economies that have resulted in unusually low rates of deforestation and agricultural activity. We conclude by discussing how this combination of factors influences the prospects for African forests in the twenty-first century. © 2013 The Authors.


Wade A.S.I.,University of Reading | Asase A.,University of Ghana | Hadley P.,University of Reading | Mason J.,Nature Conservation Research Center | And 4 more authors.
Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment | Year: 2010

How do we manage the trade-offs between agricultural yields, biodiversity and ecosystem services? One option is to adopt high yield, intensive farming that allows land to be spared elsewhere for conservation (land sparing); another is to adopt low yield, extensive farming over a greater area that retains more biodiversity and protects ecosystem services (wildlife-friendly farming). We examine which is likely to be the best option to achieve high carbon storage and tree species richness in tropical cocoa-growing landscapes. Increased management intensity explained higher yield and in turn this explained a reduction in carbon storage and species richness. Substantial differences in species richness between forest and cocoa farms suggested that land sparing would conserve more tree species than wildlife-friendly farming. The optimal strategy for carbon storage depends on the cocoa yield in the wildlife-friendly farming system. At low cocoa yields, wildlife-friendly farming is the best option; whereas at higher yields land sparing is best. Our results suggest that the best land management strategy for biodiversity and ecosystem services might differ depending on details of the farming systems involved. Management of the trade-offs between agriculture, biodiversity and ecosystem services in tropical forest landscapes needs to consider current and expected future yields. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.


Sheppard D.J.,Outreach | Sheppard D.J.,Nature Conservation Research Center | Moehrenschlager A.,Center for Conservation Research | Mcpherson J.M.,Center for Conservation Research | And 2 more authors.
Environmental Conservation | Year: 2010

Community-based natural resource management has been accused of failing on social, economic or ecological grounds. Balanced assessments are rare, however, particularly in West Africa. This paper examines the first 10 years of Ghana's Wechiau Community Hippo Sanctuary using an evaluation framework that considers socioeconomic and ecological outcomes, as well as resilience mechanisms. Building upon traditional taboos against the killing of hippopotami, this initiative has attempted to conserve an imperilled large mammal, protect biodiversity and alleviate abject poverty amidst a bush meat crisis and complex ethnic diversity. Findings show that the Sanctuary has improved local livelihoods by spurring economic diversification and infrastructure development rates 2-8 times higher than in surrounding communities. Simultaneously, threats to biodiversity have subsided, hippopotamus numbers have remained stable and the Sanctuary's riparian habitats now harbour more bird species than comparable areas nearby. Improved social capital, true empowerment, an equitable distribution of benefits, ecological awareness among children and support for the Sanctuary, even amongst community members who were disadvantaged by its creation, speak to good long-term prospects. Risks remain, some of which are beyond the community's control, but evidence of socioecological resilience suggests that capacity exists to buffer risks and foster sustainability. Lessons learnt at Wechiau translate into recommendations for the planning, implementation and evaluation of future community-based conservation initiatives, including greater interdisciplinary integration and the use of adaptive co-management approaches. © Foundation for Environmental Conservation 2010.


McPherson J.M.,Center for Conservation Research | Sammy J.,Center for Conservation Research | Sammy J.,Vancouver Island University | Sheppard D.J.,Center for Conservation Research | And 6 more authors.
Ecology and Society | Year: 2016

Cultural traditions can conflict with modern conservation goals when they promote damage to fragile environments or the harvest of imperiled species. We explore whether and how traditional, culturally motivated species exploitation can nonetheless aid conservation by examining the recent “discovery” in Avu Lagoon, Ghana, of sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii gratus), a species familiar to locals, but not previously scientifically recorded in Ghana and regionally assumed extinct. Specifically, we investigate what role traditional beliefs, allied hunting practices, and the associated traditional ecological knowledge have played in the species’ discovery and subsequent community-based conservation; how they might influence future conservation outcomes; and how they may themselves be shaped by conservation efforts. Our study serves to exemplify the complexities, risks, and benefits associated with building conservation efforts around traditional ecological knowledge and beliefs. Complexities arise from localized variation in beliefs (with cultural significance of sitatunga much stronger in one village than others), progressive dilution of traditional worldviews by mainstream religions, and the context dependence, both culturally and geographically, of the reliability of traditional ecological knowledge. Among the benefits, we highlight (1) information on the distribution and habitat needs of species that can help to discover, rediscover, or manage imperiled taxa if appropriately paired with scientific data collection; and (2) enhanced sustainability of conservation efforts given the cultivation of mutual trust, respect, and understanding between researchers and local communities. In turn, conservation attention to traditional ecological knowledge and traditionally important species can help reinvigorate cultural diversity by promoting the persistence of traditional belief and knowledge systems alongside mainstream worldviews and religions. © 2016 by the author(s).


Asare R.A.,Nature Conservation Research Center | Kyei A.,The Ghana Forestry Commission | Mason J.J.,Nature Conservation Research Center
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2013

Climate change poses a significant threat to Africa, and deforestation rates have increased in recent years. Mitigation initiatives such as REDD+ are widely considered as potentially efficient ways to generate emission reductions (or removals), conserve or sustainably manage forests, and bring benefits to communities, but effective implementationmodels are lacking. This paper presents the case of Ghana's Community Resource Management Area (CREMA) mechanism, an innovative natural resource governance and landscape-level planning tool that authorizes communities to manage their natural resources for economic and livelihood benefits. This paper argues that while the CREMAwas originally developed to facilitate community-basedwildlife management and habitat protection, it offers a promising community-based structure and process for managing African forest resources for REDD+. At a theoretical level, it conforms to the ecological, socio-cultural and economic factors that drive resource-users' decision process and practices. And from a practical mitigation standpoint, the CREMA has the potential to help solve many of the key challenges for REDD+ inAfrica, including definition of boundaries, smallholder aggregation, free prior and informed consent, ensuring permanence, preventing leakage, clarifying land tenure and carbon rights, as well as enabling equitable benefit-sharing arrangements. Ultimately, CREMA's potential as a forestmanagement and climate changemitigation strategy that generates livelihood benefits for smallholder farmers and forest users will depend upon the willingness of African governments to support themechanismand give it full legislative backing, and themotivation of communities to adopt the CREMA and integrate democratic decision-making and planning with their traditional values and natural resource management systems. © 2013 The Authors.


Asare R.A.,Nature Conservation Research Center
Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences | Year: 2013

Climate change poses a significant threat to Africa, and deforestation rates have increased in recent years. Mitigation initiatives such as REDD+ are widely considered as potentially efficient ways to generate emission reductions (or removals), conserve or sustainably manage forests, and bring benefits to communities, but effective implementation models are lacking. This paper presents the case of Ghana's Community Resource Management Area (CREMA) mechanism, an innovative natural resource governance and landscape-level planning tool that authorizes communities to manage their natural resources for economic and livelihood benefits. This paper argues that while the CREMA was originally developed to facilitate community-based wildlife management and habitat protection, it offers a promising community-based structure and process for managing African forest resources for REDD+. At a theoretical level, it conforms to the ecological, socio-cultural and economic factors that drive resource-users' decision process and practices. And from a practical mitigation standpoint, the CREMA has the potential to help solve many of the key challenges for REDD+ in Africa, including definition of boundaries, smallholder aggregation, free prior and informed consent, ensuring permanence, preventing leakage, clarifying land tenure and carbon rights, as well as enabling equitable benefit-sharing arrangements. Ultimately, CREMA's potential as a forest management and climate change mitigation strategy that generates livelihood benefits for smallholder farmers and forest users will depend upon the willingness of African governments to support the mechanism and give it full legislative backing, and the motivation of communities to adopt the CREMA and integrate democratic decision-making and planning with their traditional values and natural resource management systems.


Grant
Agency: GTR | Branch: NERC | Program: | Phase: Research Grant | Award Amount: 683.57K | Year: 2013

Agricultural development is a major pathway out of poverty in rural Africa. The cultivation of cash crops for sale alongside subsistence crops helps improve livelihoods and alleviate poverty in rural communities. The productivity of these farming systems relies on services provided by the agro-ecosystem within which they occur. These services include fertile soils, the control of pests and diseases, and crop pollination by wild animals. We know that some agricultural systems can damage these services in the longer-term - soil fertility declines, pest and disease outbreaks become more common, pollination levels are reduced. This means that although rural livelihoods might be improved by agricultural development in the short-term, ecosystem degradation and the associated loss of ecosystem services might threaten these gains in the medium to long-term. Has agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa exceeded the capacity of ecosystems to support it? If so, what implications does this have for poor people in rural communities? Are there pathways rural communities might choose to take that enable them to benefit from agriculture-based livelihoods without risking longer-term ecosystem damage? Answering these questions is currently very difficult because a comprehensive understanding of the relationships between agricultural development, wealth distribution and socio-economic opportunity, governance systems, and ecosystem health is largely lacking for the smallholder farming systems typical of sub-Saharan Africa. There is, therefore, a major research challenge in this area that our proposed project aims to address. We plan to explore the ecosystem limits to poverty alleviation in African forest-agriculture landscapes. Specifically, we plan to focus our work on a cocoa farming landscape in Ghana, and a coffee farming landscape in Ethiopia. Ghana and Ethiopia provide an opportunity to study forest-agriculture ecosystems that have contrasting recent development trajectories, levels of rural poverty and ecosystem health. In Ghana, agricultural development has significantly contributed to improved rural livelihoods but may have pushed forest-agriculture ecosystems beyond their limits; whereas in Ethiopia agricultural development is an important potential pathway out of poverty for the rural poor but it is unlikely to have pushed ecosystems beyond their limits yet. By studying these contrasting situations, we hope to provide the scientific evidence that helps rural communities avoid the potentially detrimental effects of ecosystem degradation and hence have more sustainable livelihoods in the longer-term. To do this, we plan to explore (i) the limits to the services provided by forest-agriculture ecosystems resulting from agricultural expansion and intensification; (ii) the key social processes that maintain forest-agriculture ecosystems within these limits or move them beyond them; (iii) the role poverty plays in the processes that determine whether or not ecosystem limits are reached and exceeded; and whether ecosystem limits in turn affect poverty; and (iv) the potential pathways out of poverty rural communities might take; the potential risks ecosystem limits pose to these pathways; and how communities might act to reduce or minimize these risks.

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