Understanding & Sustaining Brazilian Biome Resources

Felled tree being sawn up

The Understanding & Sustaining Brazilian Biome Resources programme seeks to improve our understanding of the role of biodiversity in the functioning of ecosystems; the drivers and impacts of change; and options for management and restoration, within Brazilian biomes. It is jointly funded by NERC and the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). The UK supports the programme through the Newton Fund, which forms part of the UK government's Official Development Assistance (ODA) commitment.

Newton Amazon announcement

14 Apr 2016

As part of the UK Newton Fund activities, NERC in collaboration with the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) have agreed to support two projects under the joint NERC-FAPESP programme 'Understanding & Sustaining Brazilian Biome Resources'.

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Tropical forests are hotspots of terrestrial biodiversity and play an important role in carbon cycling. The loss, fragmentation and degradation of these forests cause global biodiversity loss and have important implications for the global climate system, as well as a range of other ecosystem services. Deforestation is second only to burning fossil fuels for energy as a source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Continued biomass export and certain management practices such as converting forest to alternative land-uses (particularly agriculture) have major implications for biogeochemical cycles. Uncertainty in how the tropical biosphere will respond to global change is one of the major constraints on predicting the climate of the end of this century and therefore on assessing threshold values of greenhouse gas emissions that may avoid dangerous climate change.

The UN's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation & Forest Degradation (REDD) programme is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. Its successor REDD+ goes beyond deforestation and degradation to include biodiversity conservation, sustainable management of forests and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

There are significant gaps in our knowledge, particularly with respect to the role biodiversity plays in regulating biogeochemical cycles in tropical forests (including interactions between the biosphere and the atmosphere) and the links between these processes and species of conservation concern, which is a key component of REDD+. Developing the science requires integrated observations and modelling linked to gradients in forest modification (loss, fragmentation, degradation) and derived land-uses (eg agriculture).

Tropical biodiversity is poorly described compared with that of temperate regions. Interactions between organisms above ground and those underground will play a key role in regulating biogeochemical cycles. While tropical plants above ground are routinely surveyed, other key biodiversity groups such as soil organisms and consumers are not. This means that there is a need for basic assessments on these important groups, such as their distribution, abundance and community composition, as well as links with measurements of their functional roles. There are also major challenges around bringing state-of-the-art observational science associated with biosphere-atmosphere interactions into the field.

NERC and FAPESP are seeking to build on the relationship formed during their existing collaboration on the Human Modified Tropical Forests programme, with a joint programme of research in complimentary Brazilian biomes (including Amazon, Atlantic rainforest, Caatinga and Cerrado biomes). This will improve our understanding of the role of biodiversity in the functioning of ecosystems, the drivers and impact of change, and options for management and restoration.

The projects funded through this programme will undertake research at the biome spatial scale. Projects should also seek to use existing long term data sets that are available from other projects (including RAINFOR, the ForestPlots network and the Global Ecosystems Monitoring Network).

The scientific objectives are to:

  1. Improve our understanding of the role of biodiversity in major forest biogeochemical cycles (carbon, nitrogen & phosphorus) at the level of whole biomes. This will enable us to explore resilience to, and potential regional impacts of, environmental change including human and climatic disturbance.

  2. Explore the spatial correlations between ecosystem function in terms of biogeochemical cycles and the distribution of species of conservation concern, within a range of Brazilian ecosystems including forest and non-forest biomes (such as Atlantic rainforest, Cerrado, Caatinga).

  3. Critically assess the potential and trade-offs of forest/ecosystem management and policy options (eg REDD+) to protect both key ecosystem functions (biogeochemical cycles) and biodiversity and other ecosystem services.

  4. Projects should seek to use new or innovative technology to make sustainable long-term observations of biogeochemical cycling and biodiversity. Better technological approaches may improve our understanding of biodiversity and its responses to human and climate perturbation, including links with changes in land use.


2015 - 2019

Can I apply for a grant?

No, the funding round has closed.


NERC will provide up to £2 million of funding (80% full economic cost) to eligible UK-based researchers and FAPESP will provide up to R$8 million (approximately £2 million) to eligible São Paulo State-based researchers.

Programme Awards

For a list of awards made within the programme please visit Grants on the Web - external link