Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment showed that the loss of services from ecosystems is a significant barrier to reducing poverty, hunger and disease.
Tackling this set of problems requires:
- environmental science to understand why ecosystems are becoming degraded, and how to reverse this
- ecological economics to better value the services
- political economy (a combination of economics, law and political science) to ascertain what institutional changes are needed in order to equally distribute the costs and benefits of improved ecosystem management to the poor
Three organisations - NERC, the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (DFID) - have joined forces to deliver a £40·5m research programme on Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA). The ESPA programme was launched as part of the Living With Environmental Change partnership.
ESPA aims to deliver high quality and cutting-edge research that will deliver improved understanding of how ecosystems function, the services they provide, the full value of these services, and their potential role in achieving sustainable poverty reduction. ESPA research will provide the evidence and tools to enable decision makers and end users to manage ecosystems sustainably and in a way that contributes to poverty reduction.
To achieve this ESPA research will seek to address some of the critical evidence challenges faced by policy and decision makers, such as:
- What values do ecosystem services hold and for whom?
- What drivers are degrading and/or preventing realisation of the values provided by ecosystem services, and how can we better manage prevailing trends?
- What are the most critical dynamics and processes that influence the provision of ecosystem services in the context of poverty alleviation?
- How can we safeguard ecosystem service values of particular importance to the poor?
- How can we manage ecosystem services sustainably, and realise more out of their values, for poverty alleviation and growth?
The ESPA programme will predominantly work in four regions of the world that experience significant challenges in managing their ecosystem services in the context of poverty reduction and sustainable growth, these are:
- south Asia
- sub-Saharan Africa; and
Four regional and two thematic situation analyses informed the development of the programme, providing evidence identifying key regional ecosystem services challenges and proposing ways to best address these challenges through research to alleviate poverty. The analyses were performed by consortia of researchers from the region, the UK and elsewhere in collaboration with national governments and local partners.
A number of research themes were identified that represented common findings of the situation analyses. These themes describe some of the key components of the ESPA research landscape:
- Water: impacts of climate variability and other changes on ecosystem services that underpin the water cycle and water security.
- Health: ecosystem services, disease ecology and human well-being.
- Forests: forests, land use change and ecosystem services.
- Biodiversity: biodiversity and ecosystem services - ensuring a sustainable flow of goods and services to enhance human well-being.
- Coasts: strengthening the management of coastal ecosystems to support sustained ecosystem service delivery for reduced poverty and vulnerability in coastal zones.
- Political Economy: the political economy needed for sustainable management of ecosystem services for poverty reduction and sustainable growth.