Genetic and paleoecological signatures of African rainforest dynamics:

Pre-adapted to change?


P1-ULB + P2-UGent + P3-RMCA (WP6 coord.) + P4-ULG (WP5 coord.) + IP1-UPMC + IP2-UBern

Forest fragmentation, climate gradients, diversification
Forest-savannah mosaic in Western DR Congo © F. Trolliet

Species-climate niches deduced from SDM or DVM will be used to reconstruct ancestral states on the phylogeny and assess the degree of phylogenetic signal in climate niche. Divergence time between allopatric sister (sub)species or gene pools will be compared with vegetation reconstructions at different key periods to assess whether a congruent scenario of past forest fragmentation can be reached from three independent data sources (phylogeographic patterns, fossil pollen, vegetation modeling).

Vegetation model and forest Holocene history
Fire raging through the upper Rwenzori (Ouganda) © D. Verschuren

Modeled time sequences produced will be compared with the site-specific paleo-environmental data to validate the vegetation model for the respective study areas. This multi-proxy information will also provide the historical fire and vegetation-dynamics context allowing interpretation of stand-level evidence for past vegetation change. The end result will be a comprehensive, cross-validated scenario of Holocene African rainforest history.

Forest response to ongoing environmental changes
Forest exploitation South-east Cameroon © O. Hardy

Once validated, CARAIB will be used to make predictions on species distribution changes and ecosystem services (e.g., wood production, carbon sequestration) under different scenarios of future climate changes and anthropic impact (degree of forest fragmentation) at the scale of 100 and 300 years.

Recommendations for tropical forest management
Elephants reaching a coastal forest (Gabon) © O. Hardy

An end-project conference will be organised to present (i) the scientific results of the project, (ii) the perspectives and priorities for new research, and (iii) the practical implications of the research results for policy making and forest management. It may either be organized as a stand-alone conference (e.g. in Brussels), or as part of a particular workshop or symposium of an international conference (e.g. ATBC, GTÖ, ...).