Recognition of community land rights: a tool against tropical deforestation

March 23, 2023

Wanting to preserve biodiversity in tropical forest areas without involving the local and indigenous communities that live there is neither fair nor effective, say ecologist Jacques Tassin and geographer Christian Kull. This was the tag line for our recent opinion piece published in the French newspaper Le Monde. Thanks so much to my friend and collaborator Jacques Tassin for involving me in this project. Below, I’ve made an English translation of the article, and also inserted some of the references that inspired us.

Read the rest of this entry »

Explaining and using theories of ‘power’ in conservation

February 8, 2023

Power (to decide, implement, resist, inform, convince, …) is needed for good environmental management and nature conservation. It is often contested. Power is also sometimes hard to grasp – it can be held by certain people, by rules, by institutions, by ideas, or even by discourses. This new paper, fruit of a workshop organised by Ross Shackleton here at the University of Lausanne and fruitful exchanges between the co-authors, tries to clarify questions of power and proposes six guiding principles approaching power in conservation research and practice.

Different theories of power (Fig 1 from the paper)
Read the rest of this entry »

New project: what type of fire regime for what type of benefit (carbon, biodiversity, livelihoods…) in Southern Africa and Madagascar

October 13, 2022
Field burning near Beira, Mozambique (C. Kull, 2010)

I am happy to announce that we have received funding from SNIS (Swiss Network for International Studies) for a new project. Principal member of the project is fire ecologist and remote sensing specialist Víctor Fernández-García, with collaborators at the universities of Antananarivo, Eduardo Mondlane, Swansea, Lausanne, and Léon, and at FAO and SANParks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Voices from the forest – local people and conservation in Madagascar

December 21, 2021

Congratulations to the team from the “Forest4Climate&People” project at ESSA-Forêts (University of Antananarivo) and the School of Natural Sciences (Bangor University) for this fantastic short film. It is both beautifully done and really informative. Wonderful images as well as guitar picking by D’Gary. And most of all, it has a strong and clear message, contained in the subtitle, that advocates “putting local people at the heart of decisions about tropical forest’s contribution to tackling climate change”.

English version embedded above; voici le lien pour la version française:

New forests, new forest people (video presentation)

February 2, 2021

I was recently invited to give a presentation at University College London’s “Human Ecology Research Group” seminar series, and was asked record it in advance. I thank HERG for the invitation and the very fruitful discussion! I’m pleased to share the presentation here.

Summary: Forest landscapes and forest lives are mutating rapidly in central Vietnam. Non-native acacia plantations have boomed, local people have refashioned their livelihoods around these trees, in a context of diverse state policies. What is ‘sustainability’ in the face of these dynamics? This presentation seeks to give an overview of the progress of the “FT Viet” R4D project. I start describing the empirical case, then address the sustainability question before finishing with some comments on interdisciplinarity.

New forests and new forest people in central Vietnam: questions for sustainability and interdisciplinarity from KullGeog on Vimeo.

Economic pressures resurgent in Vietnam’s forests

August 10, 2020

Over the past decade, Vietnam has shifted its approach to forestlands as spaces for economic production and ecosystem services. Policy shifts — such as re-zoning forests from “protection” to “production” — have accompanied decreases in natural forest and increases in exotic tree plantations. Other new policies, like a payment for ecosystem services (PFES) program, had little impact on natural forest cover during the period of our study. More stable natural forests were associated with better governance (less corruption). In sum, despite large efforts invested in stopping deforestation and restoring forestlands, gains in forest cover are not irreversible.


Expanding acacia plantations and (in the far back) natural forest in Huong Nguyen commune, Thừa Thiên-Huế province

These are just some of the findings of an article from our r4d “FT Viet” research project just published in the journal World Development. Read the rest of this entry »

Photo essay on forest change in central Vietnam

December 6, 2019

I’m happy to announce that the Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development (r4d) has published my photo essay regarding our work in the mountains of Thừa Thiên-Huế province in central Vietnam. You can see it here:

Statistics to open your eyes: our biomass on this planet

November 1, 2019

Here are some numbers that put into perspective the human dominance of the planet: people and domesticated livestock account for 96 percent of the biomass of all mammals on the planet. In other words, if you weighed up all the mammals of the planet on a giant scale, wild mammals (including those very heavy whales and elephants) are only 4 percent of the total. Yikes! The same holds true for birds. The biomass of all the chicken in the world is about three times higher than that of wild birds. What if conservation measures that put their goals in terms of land area (like Madagascar’s Durban Vision of 10% in protected areas, or E. O. Wilson’s Half-Earth) switched to a biomass goal instead?

Read the rest of this entry »

Socio-ecological landscapes of Thừa Thiên-Huế province

September 19, 2017

Unrecognizable 20 years ago: Acacia plantations and new road in Nam Đông district, Thừa Thiên-Huế province.

The past week marked the launch of our new, Swiss government funded research project on the “forest transition” in Vietnam, which I’m leading in collaboration with colleagues Trần Nam Thắng and Ngô Trí Dũng of Huế University and Roland Cochard at Unil (see previous blog). The project aims to promote sustainable forest management and resilient rural livelihoods in the rapidly changing forest landscapes of this region.

Read the rest of this entry »

Announcing new project on forest landscapes in Vietnam (with PhD post)

April 25, 2017

Forest in Vietnam can mean many things. There are the dense, dipterocarp rainforests that have divulged mammal species previously unknown to science, like the saola. There are also the vast plantations of exotic acacias growing wood for industry, as I detailed in a previous blog entry. And these forests have changed rapidly in the past few decades in step with the country’s economy and politics. The country is often seen to have undergone a “forest transition”, whereby a previous history of deforestation transitions to a new phase characterised by forest stability and indeed regrowth (albeit largely with exotic plantations).  In a new research-for-development project (see PhD job ad here), we intend to investigate the exact nature of the forest transition and its feedback into sustainable development for the heavily peopled rural landscapes of Vietnam.

r4d photo - 4

Acacia mangium, forest plantations, and natural rainforest in A Luoi district, Vietnam

Read the rest of this entry »