Title of symposium:
Built infrastructure and the future of tropical forests

Symposium Summary
The world is facing an era of infrastructure (such as roads, rail lines and dams etc.) expansion that is unprecedented in the human history. For instance, since the year 2000 the length of official roads has increased by ~12 million km worldwide, with a further 25 million km of additional roads (paved) expected by 2050. Roughly, 90% of new infrastructure projects are occurring in developing nations, particularly those in tropical and subtropical regions.

If they proceed as planned, many of these infrastructure projects are likely to cause irreversible negative consequences to tropical forests including forcing many endangered flora and fauna species to the edge of extinction, and fragmenting many sensitive and intact tropical forest ecosystems. Beyond the ecological consequences, evidence shows that a quarter of this investment is likely to be lost due to various forms of corruption in the infrastructure sectors of many developing tropical nations. Additionally, many of these infrastructure projects are likely to fail to meet their expected socio-economic benefits due to a lack of ongoing maintenance, low-quality infrastructure development, difficult terrain conditions and predicted climate change induced events such as extreme rainfall and severe landslides.

Finding sensible solutions to conserve tomorrow’s tropical forests during this incredible era of infrastructure expansion in the tropics is challenging and time critical. Therefore, the goals of this symposium is to highlight the recent advancements in i) analyzing and understanding the evolving trends of infrastructure expansion in tropical forested landscape, ii) environmental, economic and socio-political risks of infrastructure expansion in tropical forested landscapes, and iii) strategic land use modeling approaches to minimizing environmental harms and maximizing socio-economic benefits during infrastructure expansion in the tropics.

Our symposium will bring together a range of complementary talks on cutting edge research outcomes examining different aspects of infrastructure development in the tropics and its impacts on tropical forest conservation. These include impacts of infrastructure on tropical biodiversity, ecosystem services, hydrology, tropical forest intactness, habitat connectivity, animal movement, tropical economies and societies, and spatial modelling and strategic land use planning for infrastructure optimization in tropics.

As such this symposium will be a broad yet targeted body discussing multiple aspects of planned/ongoing infrastructure projects in the tropics using empirical evidence from studies on sensitive tropical forested ecosystems. This forum will also debate the challenges, opportunities and strategies of promoting tomorrow’s tropical forests conservation under the influence of the unprecedented infrastructure expansion in the region.

List of speakers and presentation titles:

Speaker names and affiliation

Presentation title

Dr. William F. Laurance, FAA, FAAAS, FRSQ
Distinguished Research Professor & Australian Laureate
Director of the Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science
James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Infrastructure Expansion of the Fate of Tropical Forests

Dr. Alex Lechner
Assistant Professor
School of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

Planning for Biodiversity Conservation Needs to be a Core Value for China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Dr. Mohammed Alamgir
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, and College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Infrastructure Expansion and the Indonesian Borneo Tropical Forests

Dr. Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz
Associate Professor
MEME’s PI
School of Environmental and Geographical Sciences
The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

Why did the Elephant Cross the Road? The Complex Response of Wild Elephants to a Major Road in Peninsular Malaysia

Dr. Sean Sloan
Senior Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, and College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, 4878, Australia

Infrastructure Development, Tropical Forest Management, and Governance: Challenges for ‘Second-wave’ Developments

Somphot Duangchantrasir
Khao Nang Ram Wildlife Research Station
Wildlife Conservation Office
Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, Bangkok, Thailand

Distributions of Tigers and Prey in a Thailand’s World Heritage Site as Baseline for Strengthening Connectivity for Species Recovery

Dr. Mahmoud I. Mahmoud
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, and College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, 4878, Australia

Superhighway Development Threatens Tropical Forest Conservation and SDGs in Equatorial Africa

Cynthia Ong
Board Chair and Executive Director, LEAP - Land Empowerment Animals People, Sabah, Malaysia

The Political Economy of Infrastructure Development and the Pan Borneo Highway in Sabah

Dr. Ali Suhardiman
Laboratory of Forest Inventory and Planning, Faculty of Forestry, University of Mulawarman, Samarinda 75123, East Kalimantan, Indonesia

The Footprint of East Kalimantan Landscape Dynamics 1990 - 2015

Thomas Mutton
Scientific Support Officer, WCS Papua New Guinea
PO Box 277, Goroka, Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea

When Rubber Hits the Road: the Interplay of Planning, Pretexts and Policy on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea

Dr. Mason J. Campbell
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, and College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Does the Pan-Borneo Highway Upgrade Conflict with the Heart of Borneo Aspirations in Sabah, Malaysia?