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Speaker: Dr Claudia Gray, Research Fellow (Evolution, Behaviour and Environment), University of Sussex
Palm oil is a highly valuable commodity, used in a wide range of products, but the expansion of oil palm plantations contributes to the loss of tropical forest and declines in biodiversity. Whilst the majority of palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, the industry is growing in Africa and the Neotropics; strategies for conserving biodiversity within oil palm plantations are therefore of global importance. Claudia will be talking about her PhD research on biodiversity conservation within oil palm plantations in Malaysia, focussing on the role of riparian reserves. Riparian forest is often protected because of its beneficial impact on water quality, flood risk and soil erosion. However, the importance of riparian forest buffers for terrestrial biodiversity or other ecosystem services in tropical agricultural landscapes has received very little attention. As a result, there is little ecological evidence available to inform management guidelines for riparian zones. In addition, the methods used to make policy recommendations are highly variable, reducing the ability of the scientific community to provide robust advice.
Claudia will present her work detailing the conservation value of riparian reserves for tropical insect species and the ecological functions they support. She will also discuss the potential for research on riparian reserves to become more streamlined and the role that these buffer strips play in other tropical landscapes.
Claudia recently finished her PhD in the Zoology Department at Oxford University earlier this year, and is now working as a post-doc in the ecology and conservation group at the University of Sussex. Before her PhD, she was on the MSc course in Biodiversity, Conservation and Management in the School of Geography at Oxford University, and did her undergraduate degree in Zoology at Cambridge University. She was a founding member and later president of the Oxford University Nature Conservation Society. Claudia is also interested in visual arts and will share an animation she has made to communicate some of the main messages of her PhD.