Modeling Climate, Ecosystem Services and Livelihoods to Identify Resilient Governance Systems - Linked Project

Professor AJ Bebbington
The University of Manchester, Environment and Development
Start Date
1 July, 2010
End Date
31 December, 2010

This project is linked to project NE/I00260X/1, PI Dr D Wilkie

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 generated 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. Our research was 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. We developed systems dynamic models of climate, ecosystem services and rural livelihoods in these landscapes, and combined these with participatory assessments of governance options, across a range of spatial and political scales. The models acknowledged that regulatory and provisioning services were ecologically interdependent, which would permit an exploration of synergies and trade-offs in these ecosystem services under various management regimes. 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.