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Leech socks and a GPS: essential equipment for a field trip to Khe Nuoc Trong

5 February, 2016 - 16:44 -- World Land Trust
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Khe Nuoc Trong forest.
Members of the team cross a river crossing in Khe Nuoc Trong.

Suzanne Stas is researching carbon storage and sequestration in Khe Nuoc Trong forest in Vietnam for a PhD funded by World Land Trust (WLT). She sent this progress report.

“Are you doing a PhD in tropical forest ecology in Leeds?” People often ask me this with questioning faces. That is because I am studying at the University of Leeds, but my field site is in Vietnam.

Leaving the north of England behind, in November 2015 I went on a two week field trip to Vietnam with my supervisor Dominick Spracklen. There we met with Roger Wilson, WLT’s Senior Conservationist, and Natalie Singleton, WLT’s Assistant Programmes Officer. The aim of the trip was to meet local partners and organisations, to visit the field site and to understand the logistics for my future fieldwork.

Khe Nuoc Trong

My research takes place in Khe Nuoc Trong forest in Quang Binh Province. The forest is protected for the important watershed services it provides, but it is threatened by illegal logging and poaching, which jeopardises the forest and its valuable ecosystem services.

WLT is using the principles of REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, including the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks), which creates a monetary value for the carbon stored within trees and vegetation and used as an incentive to protect forests. WLT’s carbon offsetting programme gives individuals or companies that want to address their carbon footprint the chance to provide funds for forest conservation by purchasing carbon ’credits’.

“We need a better understanding of the amount of carbon stored within forests and how this is altered when forests are logged.”
Suzanne Stas

But, in order for this to happen, we need a better understanding of the amount of carbon stored within forests and how this is altered when forests are logged. During my PhD, I will study the impacts of forest degradation and recovery on the carbon storage and sequestration in Khe Nuoc Trong forest.

During the first few days of the field trip, we met people from several environmental research institutes, NGOs and a local university. This helped us to get a better understanding of the forestry and carbon-related work that has already been done in this region.

Mangroves in Guatemala.

The team slept in hammocks at the camp in the forest. © Suzanne Stas.

Trekking into the forest

Geared up with leech socks and a GPS, we then set out on a three-day trip into the forest. As it was the end of the rainy season, the water levels were quite high and we had to cross the river many times. After a five hour hike we reached our camp site: a spot uphill where we built a basic camp, hung our hammocks and took a shower in the river.

The next day we further explored the forest to see where the logging takes place. We assessed the general state of the forest and looked at possible sites for our sample plots.

The following day we hiked back to the village and took the night train to Hanoi. The trip provided us all the necessary information to plan my research and fieldwork for 2016.

More information

Khe Nuoc Trong Forest project officially launches in Vietnam »

More about WLT’s Carbon Balanced programme » 


Submitted by Tom on

Will your PhD be focused only on the carbon cost or you'll explore different approaches to deal with the illegal logging and poaching?

Submitted by Dominic Belfield on

I'm really pleased to see that researchers like yourselves, and together with WLT, are devoting time, energy and scrutiny to this - for me - supremely important subject.

We urgently need to know more about how healthy tropical forest ecosystems are using carbon in the long term. Are they sinks for carbon, or are they neutral and 'in balance', or are they perhaps emitting carbon? The more data and knowledge which can be gathered the more we can get to grips with understanding the dynamics involved. It will very definitely assist in formulating sound policies with regard to forest ecosystems and climate change.

Goodness knows - enough bollocks (technical term, unavoidable when it comes to governments) gets talked about rainforests and sequestration by malevolent parties already, and gets twisted into nefarious reasons as to why we 'have' to chop down old growth to make way for super-all-new 'carbon sink' mono crops, like palm oil etc.

It will also be fascinating to learn more about this particular forest in Vietnam.

A field trip in Vietnam - sounds and looks thrilling. I envy Suzanne a little and wish I could be part of such research, especially given the fact that it is environmentally related. I hope your efforts have been successful!

Submitted by Allan on

I admire people like you, who really cares about nature and look for ways to save our planet from pollution. Without you, it will be a losing battle. But what really annoys me is the feeling that all your effort is not appreciated as befits by the authorities - the people who have the real power to prevent the illegal logging with real actions, not only profound speeches and empty promises.

Submitted by Dean Cole on

The trip to Khe Nuoc Trong looks amazing. A real beauty. I would love to visit that forest. So wild and fun.

Submitted by Excitel on

It is such a pity that nowadays very few people realize the importance of forests for our health, wellbeing, etc. I admire you for being one of them.

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