Collaborating with researchers in Rwanda
“It’s extremely exciting to carry on and develop collaboration with another university in a relatively unexplored area,” says Wallin, at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences.
Close to 260 different types of trees and many other rare species grow in Rwanda’s tropical montane rainforests, where the Nyungwe National Park covers an area of more than 1,000 square kilometres. The forest is of vital importance to residents as a source of income from ecotourism, but it is also important as a carbon sink and for water control. Africa’s two major rivers, the Congo and the Nile, originate in these mountains, and the rivers are replenished by precipitation.
“In addition, this is a biodiversity ‘hot spot’ in the world, and it’s a serious matter if the forest suffers damage and species disappear,” Uddling says.
More than 12 million people live in Rwanda, an area the size of Småland that is called “Land of a Thousand Hills”. In 1994 the brutal Rwanda genocide claimed the lives of more than 800,000 Tutsi. Consequently, when the president of the National University of Rwanda contacted SIDA at the beginning of 2002 for help in building up the university, the country still was reeling from the civil war.
“We collaborate on environmental research in particular and began both student and researcher exchanges with the University of Rwanda,” says Wallin. He coordinates the University of Gothenburg’s environmental research collaboration with Rwanda, which also involves several other institutions at the university there.
Working with local researchers, Wallin and Uddling conduct research on how climate changes are affecting the Nyungwe tropical montane rainforest.
“Our fundamental question is how tropical tree species, which are adapted to a stable and already hot climate, pull through if it gets warmer. The long-standing hypothesis has been that they are close to their temperature optimum,” says Uddling.