Scientific Overview

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This project examines how woodland loss is changing ecosystem services and wellbeing of the rural poor in Mozambique. It will integrate this new information into land use policy and practice to alleviate rural poverty. Poor rural households depend vitally on ecosystem services derived from woodlands. However, little is known about change: how the impacts of woodland loss and agricultural expansion affect rural wellbeing. Gradual land use change can cause abrupt or non-linear changes to ecosystem services and rural livelihoods, but given the complexity of the system, the key ecological and social processes remain opaque. Better land use policy and practice require empirical evidence on the impacts of land use change on rural wellbeing. ACES will deliver such evidence, within a framework designed for, and by, those involved in land use decisions. The project will do so through a novel combination of stakeholder participation in the construction of Bayesian belief networks, the collection and analysis of large-scale social-ecological data along gradients of land use change, leading to the creation of future scenarios through which impacts can be assessed. These methods allow the incorporation of different types of knowledge, a systems approach to complex realities, and the co-production of outputs to ensure maximal impact. Our approach will inform policy formulation and implementation that will directly influence the expansion of commercial agriculture, intensification of small-holder agriculture, rural development, and the likely trade-offs in management of woodlands for food, energy, timber, carbon and biodiversity.

The project will employ postdoctoral researchers from Mozambique and Zimbabwe who will work in close collaboration with researchers from Edinburgh, Exeter and Brazil, led by an interdisciplinary team from southern and northern institutions. A steering committee of experienced scientists and practitioners from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Brazil and Europe will provide strategic guidance and international policy linkages.

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