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Achim Hager

Achim Häger, Ph.D.

Location

Costa Rica

Education

Diploma (eq. MSc) in Forestry Sciences,
University of Göttingen (Germany)

Doctorate in Forestry Sciences (Dr. forest)
University of Göttingen (Germany)

Teaching

SFS 3740 Principles of Natural Resources Management
(The School for Field Studies)

SFS 3520 Sustaining Tropical Ecosystems in Costa Rica: Biodiversity, Conservation and Development
(The School for Field Studies)

SFS 4910 Directed Research
(The School for Field Studies)

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Achim Häger, Ph.D.

Professor in Principles of Natural Resources Management

About

Areas of Expertise


  • Agroforestry
  • Biodiversity and conservation
  • Climate change adaptation and mitigation
  • Ecology
  • Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
  • Soil science

Professional Activities


2011 to 2013
member of the local council of the Garcimuñoz Biological Corridor which connects several protected areas across a semi-rural landscape in the Costa Rican Central Valley.

Faculty Profile


Originally from Germany, I received my academic degrees at the Faculty of Forestry at the University of Göttingen, where I worked as a researcher on tropical cloud forest ecology between 2002 and 2006. During this time I have further taught field courses and forest management classes at the University of Göttingen and at the Faculty for Resource Management at the University for Applied Science and Art Hildesheim/Göttingen. However, since 2000 I have spent most of my time living and working in Costa Rica. Between 2006 and 2008 I have worked with the Organization for Tropical Studies where I was teaching different undergraduate and graduate courses on tropical biology, environmental science and field research, until I have joined the SFS Center for Sustainable Development Studies as resident lecturer of natural resources in 2008.

Research Interests


In general, I am interested in the application of ecological principals to natural resources management and conservation. With the University of Göttingen, I have done research on the interactions between tropical cloud forests and their physical environment in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica. I have principally studied relationships between hydrometeorology, soil conditions, forest structure and plant diversity.

Currently I am working on the evaluation of ecosystem services, such as carbon storage, biodiversity conservation, and soil protection, which are provided by tropical agroforestry systems and forest fragments. Within this context, I am focusing on the comparison of carbon storage between different land-use types and on the relationship between functional diversity and the provision of ecosystem services.

Research Projects


The research conducted at SFS field centers is designed to answer key questions related to critical and related social and environmental problems and to provide our hosts with detailed and accurate information for decision making and action. Faculty and student research projects are linked to the Center’s five year research plan, which defines an overarching research directive.

Prospective SFS students, please note that the range of projects offered by faculty will vary from semester to semester. These should be discussed with the faculty after your arrival at the center.

 

Although the Central Valley of Costa Rica covers only 4% of the national territory, the area contains nearly 60% of the population, as well as a major part of the economic activity of the country. Urban growth is highly dynamic and lacks adequate planning. The negative impacts on the environment and life quality are becoming increasingly evident. The challenge is to integrate development with conservation of natural resources and critical ecosystem services. With this purpose so-called protected zones were created in Costa Rica already in the 1970s. These areas conserve important watersheds and forest fragments. As most land within the protected zones is privately owned, conflicts of interest between conservation and productive activities have arisen. Currently there is increasing pressure from urban development within and the boundaries of some protected zones. The Center for Sustainable Development Studies is conducting a study about the importance and effectiveness of the Cerro Atenas (700 ha) and Rio Grande (900 ha) protected zones, both located in the Western Central Valley. For this purpose, land use maps from 1991 were digitalized in cooperation with Lyndon State College, Vermont. In addition, digital maps from 2008 were revised and corrected. In this way we created a GIS database to analyze land use dynamics in the Western Central Valley during the last decades. First results indicate that coffee farming is still the most important land use within the whole study area, followed by forests, pastureland with trees and urban areas. Both forests and urban have been growing significantly. Within the protected zones urban areas remain low, but grow rapidly, although there are very few areas suitable for construction. Preliminary data show that the protected zones play a critical role in the provision of environmental services such as fresh water resources and mitigation of natural disasters, however, the effectiveness of these areas is limited, due to increasing pressures and a lack of current management plans. This project intends to provide information for the Ministry of Environment (MINAE) and local municipalities, to improve the management of protected areas.

Ecosystem services represent a fundamental basis for human development. On a global level, agriculture is one of the most important drivers for the conversion and loss of ecosystems, and thus for the depletion of natural resources and environmental services. On the other hand, sustainable agricultural systems, such as agroforestry, have an enormous potential for the provision of ecosystem services and may play a central role for climate change mitigation and adaptation. This project was initiated in 2008 and aims at a comparative assessment of carbon storage and biodiversity conservation provided by agroforestry and forest fragments in Costa Rica’s Western Central Valley. The data collected so far suggest that organic farms provide higher levels of carbon storage than conventional farms, whereas tree species diversity does not seem to differ significantly. Synergies seem to exist between tree species diversity and carbon storage across farm types and forests.

Outputs:

Häger A. and G. Avalos. 2015. Functional diversity: Linking conservation and climate change mitigation in tropical altered landscapes. Poster presentation at the 21st Annual Meeting of the International Society of Tropical Foresters: Conserving biodiversity across multiple use landscapes through strategic governance and land-use planning. New Haven, Connecticut.
Häger A. 2012. The effects of management and plant diversity on carbon storage in coffee agroforestry systems in Costa Rica. Agroforestry Systems 86: 159-174.

Häger, A. 2012. Efectos de manejo y diversidad de plantas sobre el almacenamiento de carbono en los suelos de cafetales con sombra. Presentation given at the VII Congress of the Costa Rican Soil Science Association in San José, Costa Rica.
Shelton R.*, and A. Häger 2012. A comparison of aboveground carbon storage in agroforestry and secondary forest in Costa Rica. Poster presentation at the 61st Annual Meeting of the Geological Society of America, Southeastern Section. April 1-2, 2012, Asheville, North Carolina.

The decline of global biodiversity is largely due to habitat loss caused by the conversion of natural ecosystems to agriculture. This loss of biodiversity could have devastating impacts on regional ecosystem function and resilience, which are necessary components for sustaining critical environmental services and agricultural production. The object of this project is to analyze the effect of surrounding forest cover on the tree diversity of agroforestry systems within the Rio Grande Watershed in Costa Rica’s Western Central Valley. Forest cover around several shade grown coffee farms is analyzed, using a GIS land use data base elaborated by SFS – CSDS in cooperation with Lyndon State College, Vermont. Tree with a diameter ≥ 5cm are identified within a 1 ha plot on the coffee farms and in different forest fragments. Results show that tree species diversity on the farms, as well as species similarity between forests and farms increase with increasing forest cover around the farms. These results suggest that secondary forest fragments are important sources of biological diversity for surrounding agricultural landscapes in the Western Central Valley. Agroforestry is a land use practice that can help to sustain agricultural production while also conserving biological diversity in tropical rural areas.
Outputs:
Häger, A, M. Fernández, M. Stuhlmacher*, R. Acuña and A. Contreras. 2014. Effects of management and landscape composition on the diversity and structure of tree species assemblages in coffee agroforests. Agriculture, Ecosystems and the Environment 199: 43-51.
Stuhlmacher, M*. And A. Häger. 2014. Land-use factors influencing plant similarity between forests and agroforests. Presentation given at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers. Tampa, Florida.

Academics

Publications

Häger, A, M. Fernández, M. Stuhlmacher*, R. Acuña and A. Contreras. 2014. Effects of management and landscape composition on the diversity and structure of tree species assemblages in coffee agroforests. Agriculture, Ecosystems and the Environment 199: 43-51.
Häger A. 2012. The effects of management and plant diversity on carbon storage in coffee agroforestry systems in Costa Rica. Agroforestry Systems 86: 159-174.
Häger A., Dohrenbusch A. 2011. Hydrometeorology and structure of tropical montane cloud forests in north-western Costa Rica under contrasting biophysical conditions. Hydrological Processes 25 (3): 392-401.
Häger A., Dohrenbusch A. 2010. Hydrometeorology and structure of tropical montane cloud forests in north-western Costa Rica under contrasting biophysical conditions. Hydrological Processes. DOI: 10.1002/hyp.7726.
Häger, A. 2010. The effect of climate and soil conditions on tree species turnover in a Tropical Montane Cloud Forest in Costa Rica. International Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation. 58(4): 1489-1506.
Häger A., Dohrenbusch A. 2009. Baumartenzusammensetzung eines tropischen Bergregenwaldes in Costa Rica entlang eines Höhengradienten - Composition of woody plant species along an altitudinal gradient in a tropical montane cloud forest in Costa Rica. Forstarchiv 80: 314-322
Dohrenbusch A., Häger A. 2006. Forests in the Clouds. German research. 28:4-9
Häger A. 2006. Einfluss von Klima und Topographie auf Struktur, Zusammensetzung und Dynamik eines Tropischen Wolkenwaldes in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Doctoral Thesis.
Häger A., Dohrenbusch A. 2005. Impact of cloud precipitation on the water budget in tropical cloud forest ecosystems. In: Stietenroth D., Lorenz W., Tarigan S., Malik A. (eds.) Proceedings International Symposium. The Stability of Tropical Rain Forest Margins: Linking Ecological, Economic and Social Constraints of Land Use and Conservation. Göttingen University. Göttingen Germany

Book Chapters

Häger , A. and L. Schwendenmann. 2016. Forest Carbon Sequestration and Global Change. In: S. Molina and C. Rojas (eds). The Paradigm of Forests and the Survival of the Fittest. CRC Press, Florida, USA: 39-86.
Häger A., Dohrenbusch A. 2010. Structure and dynamics of a tropical cloud forest under different ecological conditions. In: Bruijnzeel, L. A., Scatena, F.N. and Hamilton, L.S. (eds.) Mountains in the Mist, Science for Conservation and Management of Tropical Montane Cloud Forests. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK: 208-216.

Presentations

2015 "Functional diversity: Linking conservation and climate change mitigation in tropical altered landscapes." Poster presentation at the 21st Annual Meeting of the International Society of Tropical Foresters: Conserving biodiversity across multiple use landscapes through strategic governance and land-use planning. New Haven, Connecticut.
2014 "Land-use factors influencing plant similarity between forests and agroforests." Presentation given at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers. Tampa, Florida.
2012. "Efectos de manejo y diversidad de plantas sobre el almacenamiento de carbono en los suelos de cafetales con sombra." Presentation given at the VII Congress of the Costa Rican Soil Science Association in San José, Costa Rica.
2009 “El efecto del clima y condiciones del suelo sobre la distribución de especies de plantas en un Bosque Nuboso Tropical”, Red Latinoamericana de Botánica, Conservación y Manejo de Recursos Vegetales en América Latina, San José, Costa Rica, 3-4 Dec, poster presentation.
2005 “Impact of Cloud Precipitation on the water budget in tropical cloud forest ecosystems”, The Stability of Tropical Rain Forest Margins: Linking Ecological, Economic and Social Constraints of Land Use and Conservation, Göttingen, Germany, 19-23 Sep, poster presentation.
2004 “Structure and Dynamics of a tropical cloud forest under differing ecological conditions”, Mountains in the Mist: Science for Conserving and Managing TMCF, Waimea, Hawaii, Jul 27-Aug 1, poster presentation.
2004 “Effects of leeward and windward positions on a tropical mountain ridge on climate and soil water conditions” , Mountains in the Mist: Science for Conserving and Managing TMCF, Waimea, Hawaii, Jul 27-Aug 1, poster presentation.