Understanding our responses to environmental change

Coastal Systems

Dynamics of Change in Coastal Social Ecological SystemsCornwall sunset

My work on coastal social ecological systems – the interactions between people, institutions, landscapes and seascapes – started with research at University of the West Indies (with Emma Tompkins, Neil Adger and colleagues) on ‘Trade-off Analysis’. We created innovative methods to engage diverse-stakeholders and to understand the trade-offs between ecosystem health, social benefits and economics.

This resulted in a book produced in 2003: ‘Making Waves: Integrating Coastal Conservation and Development’. We further developed stakeholder-based scenario techniques to examine the governance of coasts under climate change (with Emma Tompkins and Roger Few) in the Tyndall Centre project, ‘Responding to climate change: Integrated and inclusive coastal analysis.’

I have also worked on the following aspects of coastal systems:

1. Understanding vulnerabilities in coastal and fisheries systems

More recently this work on the coastal dimensions of climate change has led to research on the complex dynamics and pathways of change-impacts on fisheries for FAO (with Tim Daw, Neil Adger and Marie-Caroline Badjeck) published as an FAO Technical Paper. I’ve also collaborated on research in Western Indian Ocean impacts of coral bleaching on dependent communities and on vulnerability of national economies to climate impacts of fisheries.

• Papers in Conservation Letters and Conservation Biology
Vulnerability of coastal communities to key impacts of climate change on coral reef fisheries

• Vulnerability of national economies to the impacts of climate change on fisheries
High economic value creates a gilded trap for the Maine lobster fishery. This collaborative paper with the Resilience Alliance on the expansion of the Maine lobster-fishery was flagged in the Faculty of Biology 1000 and reported in the New York Times.

2. Coastal Resilience to Climate Change in East Africa

Between 2007-2009 I collaborated with Sergio Rosendo and Matthew Bunce on a Leverhulme Trust funded project, ‘Coastal Resilience to Climate Change in East Africa’. We used a series of techniques to understand how multiple stressors interact and how people perceive climate in the context of other changes, in four locations in Tanzania and Mozambique. Importantly, findings suggest that some current development policies actually undermine peoples’ resilience to climate change. Publications from this project include:
Policy misfits, climate change and cross-scale vulnerability in coastal Africa: How development projects undermine resilience.

3. Marine and Coastal Ecosystem Situational Analysis

I am interested in looking at how ecosystem services approaches relate to poverty alleviation and how they are applied in different developing country contexts. In 2008 I headed a large international consortium to undertake a Marine and Coastal Ecosystem Situational Analysis (download the NERC-DFID-ESRC ESPA programme report here). This developed regional studies – in the Western Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia – and a series of national and local workshops in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Philippines and Vietnam – to examined how ecosystem services can deliver benefits to poor people. Further work examines how a pro-poor approach to ecosystem services could be developed; the changing nature of coastal vulnerability in developing countries; and the institutional transformations and capacities to implement ecosystem services approaches.

I am currently Co-Chair of the International Advisory Committee for the Programme, and am co-investigator on the project ‘Participatory Modelling frameworks to understand well-being trade-offs in coastal ecosystem services’.

We also challenged these areas in the recent NERC-ESRC seminar series ‘Ecosystem Services and Human Well-being: Interrogating the Evidence’ which I co-ordinated with Neil Adger and Kerry Turner, Bhaskar Vira and Dominic Moran

. Publications from this project include:
The ecosystem services concept to poverty alleviation: The need to disaggregate human wellbeing