forestLAB is a new research hub created to explore climate-smart, conservation-led solutions for sustainable development in central Africa. 

Launched by the University of Stirling in collaboration with the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (London School of Economics) and the African Conservation Development Group (ACDG), forestLAB will provide policymakers, investors and development practitioners with the data and tools required to create world-class models of natural ecosystems management that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. 

forestLAB is funded by the ACDG and is being launched under Scotland’s International Environment Centre, which is based at the University of Stirling and established as part of the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal. In Gabon, forestLAB is partnering with the National Research Institute (CENAREST) to ensure alignment with national research interests and best-practice in field.

Vines in jungle

Sustainable development

Equatorial Africa harbours the second largest expanse of rainforest on earth and is crucial in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. forestLAB's work in the region will explore new landscape models that conserve biodiversity, deliver economic benefits to local communities and mitigate against climate change.

Biodiversity haven

The University of Stirling has been working in Gabon for over 40 years and its station in Lopé National Park is deemed a ‘supersite’ for climate research, due to the importance of its unique long-term datasets. forestLAB will have a physical research hub in Gabon’s Loango National Park – one of the world’s critical havens of biodiversity – and the Stirling team will design and manage a research portfolio – combining natural history, ecology, anthropology and the social sciences. In June 2021, Gabon became the first African country to receive payment for reducing its carbon emissions, thanks to a model co-developed by the University of Stirling and the Gabon National Climate Council. Gabon will receive $17million from Norway through the Central African Finance Initiative (CAFI), to be reinvested in sustainable forest management, in the first payment of an eventual $150m over the next ten years. It is hoped that forestLAB’s work in Gabon, in collaboration with the country’s National Centre for Scientific and Technological Research (CENAREST), will develop a blueprint for sustainable development in Africa, realising the value of its natural capital.

A pioneering project

Professor of Tropical Ecology Katharine Abernethy, of the University of Stirling’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, will lead the research, supported initially by Stirling colleagues Dr Kathryn Jeffery and Dr Robin Whytock, with additional staff and students to come on board over the coming years. They will collaborate with forestLAB partners to set up pioneering biodiversity and human impact monitoring, enabling ecological forecasting for the region, and use existing experience in Lopé to prepare tourism and training materials to enable expert researchers to act as forest tour guides.

Conservation-led economic development

Professor Kate Abernethy on how economists, social scientists and ecologists are joining forces in Central Africa to find new solutions to land management and the climate crisis.

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