Modeling climate, ecosystem services and livelihoods to identify resilient governance systems
This project was part of the ESPA scoping phase, which ran between 2008 and 2011. The resulting proposal for further funding was unsuccessful.
This project formed a consortium of partners from the United Kingdom, Tanzania, Rwanda, Bolivia, Brazil and the United States to develop a research framework that would help fill knowledge gaps related to how climate change impacts provisioning and regulatory ecosystem services; how these changes might affect rural livelihoods; and how governance solutions can be developed to help manage those changes in countries of the Amazon and Sub-Saharan Africa.
This research aimed to generate new data and understandings while building developing country capacity to design and implement policy relevant research on the impacts of climate change on ecosystem services and rural livelihoods. The research was to be conducted at four sites where the ecosystem services provided by forests and hydrological systems were highly interdependent ecologically and integral to local and, in most cases, national economies, and were at risk of major disruption from climate change. These sites included the Great Ruaha river landscape in Tanzania; the Nyungwe forest in Rwanda; the Madidi landscape of Bolivia; and the flooded (várzea) forest landscape in Mamiraua, Brazil. The role that hydrological systems and watershed management played in regulating flows of provisioning services was the common thread that bound these sites, however, the ecological and socio-political differences across sites made the policy implications of research results broadly applicable to other locations in the Amazon and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Combined, the sites allowed us to speak to a variety of water-livelihood interactions related to fisheries, energy, agriculture, sanitation and tourism, and to a range of governance contexts. These were sites where the consortium's existing data bases and local relationships were especially well developed, allowing us to conduct both quantitative modeling and qualitative research with the greatest effectiveness and efficiency.
Through a series of informal preparatory meetings, consortium members and local partners initiated a participatory process to design a research program to assess the impact of climate change on ecosystem services provision and local livelihoods. Through WebEx sessions, we hosted virtual meetings to exchange ideas that would lay the foundation for a consortium planning workshop in Bolivia to consolidate the interdisciplinary team and identify research needs at each site. The workshop produced a research program designed to identify major knowledge gaps in existing data and capacity building priorities and estimate the level of funding required to support the proposed research. This grant enabled us to develop a framework for building a cadre of researchers with the skills needed to assess climate change impacts on ecosystem services and rural livelihoods for informing policy makers. By working collaboratively across sites, the program fostered direct south-south exchange of skills and knowledge and built the collegial relationships needed for future joint research. Strengthening capacity to conduct policy relevant research was critical for guiding development decisions that enhanced local and national resilience to ecological, economic and social shocks linked to climate change. As a result of this program, our partners and their communities in developing nations were better prepared to adapt to climate change and to manage ecosystem services for the benefit of the rural poor.