What was ESPA?

ESPA’s goal was to ensure that ecosystems will be conserved and managed more sustainably – in ways that alleviate poverty and enhance wellbeing.

ESPA was a nine year global interdisciplinary research programme that aimed to give decision-makers and natural resource users the evidence they need to address the challenges of sustainable ecosystem management and poverty reduction.

The programme was developed by the UK government in response to the findings of the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment that substantial gains in human well-being in recent decades have been achieved at the expense of high and often irreversible levels of ecosystem degradation. The programme was delivered between 2009-2018.

ESPA’s key objectives were:

  • To create a strong research and evidence base on the connections among ecosystem services, their dynamics and management, human use and pathways to sustainable poverty reduction;
  • To develop innovative, interdisciplinary research and methodologies, delivering tools and approaches that enable decision-makers to simulate and predict socio-ecological responses to complex social and economic trends;
  • To engage and communicate effectively with policy makers, practitioners and decision makers so that ESPA’s research is well understood and used;
  • To enhance the capacity of researchers in the global South to conduct, lead, use and communicate high quality ESPA-type interdisciplinary research, including through effective international research partnerships.

The overarching message of ESPA's research is that policy and programmes that utilise environmental resources will inevitably carry implications for human wellbeing and may even bear hidden human costs - unless there is due assessment and care. These implications and any potential human costs must be adequately understoood and explicitly addressed through open, just and democratic processes.

Find our headline policy messages in: An environment for wellbeing: Pathways out of poverty, Policy messages from the ESPA programme.

Find out more about ESPA science and impacts in: 

ESPA's key programme documents and history is here.

Please note:  the ESPA Directorate closed in June 2018.  To report any technical faults on this website please click Contact Us.

Featured image courtesy of Ray Witlin / World Bank