Ecosystem services underpin food and water security and are essential to people’s livelihoods, especially in Africa. The challenges of evaluating and managing ecosystem services in natural and agricultural systems require interdisciplinary methods which combine natural and social science approaches.

Under the Researcher Links scheme offered within the Newton Fund, the British Council, in partnership with the South African National Research Foundation, arranged a workshop in Stellenbosch, South Africa, and I was selected to attend.

This workshop provided an opportunity for Early Career Researchers from natural and social sciences to learn about, share and strengthen their competencies in interdisciplinary approaches for evaluating ecosystem services. Specifically the workshop aimed to equip researchers from South Africa, Egypt and UK with the conceptual and analytical tools for evaluating ecosystem services and for demonstrating their importance when considering development actions.

Whilst at the workshop, I took part in numerous discussions and I highlighted key scientific outputs that I have been involved in developing. Of course, everyone was very excited to hear about the potential of the ARIES software, and many were keen to attend the training at the International Spring University. I also highlighted the following:

  • ASSETS – a project aimed at understanding food security at the forest-agriculture interface. This project was funded by the Ecosystem Service for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme and I specifically highlighted the ESPA working paper series which shares many of the key protocols and methods.
  • TESSA – a toolkit for non-experts to assess ecosystem services at the site-level. TESSA provides practical guidance on how to identify which services may be significant at a site of interest, what data are needed to measure them, what methods or sources can be used to obtain the data and how to communicate the results.

After returning to Edinburgh and reflecting on the workshop, I am very excited by the new connections I have made and look forward to extending these collaborations when conducting future research.

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