Understanding our responses to environmental change


SPACES – Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services

SPACES is an international collaborative project led by Stockholm Resilience Centre and University of Exeter, with 30 partners in Kenya, Mozambique, UK and Canada. It is funded by ESPA.

SPACES empirically analyses how ecosystem services can benefit poor people. Using the concept of an ecosystem-wellbeing chain, it examines the factors mediating linkages in this chain. It uses a suite of participatory methods to understand the social and ecological dynamics of the chain from the perspective of different social actors.

The overall aim of the project is to undertake world leading rigorous and innovative research to empirically test and understand the complex relationship between ecosystem services and the wellbeing of the poor in coastal Kenya and Mozambique, in order to identify realistic opportunities for the dual goal of poverty alleviation and sustainable resource use.

To meet these objectives the research adopts five strategies:

  1. To develop and empirically test a new conceptual framework and methodology that explicitly analyses ecosystem wellbeing chains, and identifies points of elasticity. That is, specific processes in the complex chain of translation from ecosystem services to wellbeing which provide room for improving the flow of benefits to poor beneficiaries.
  2. In collaboration with impact partners, investigate these points of elasticity as potential ‘windows of opportunity’ to maintain or enhance benefits of ecosystem services to the coastal poor, and Identify realistic policy levers mechanisms through policy collective action, donor aid, and support for new and existing institutions.
  3. Identify key dynamics of system change, including feedbacks and external drivers, that affect the chain of relations between ecosystem services and wellbeing, and produce simple social ecological system models that illustrate these, including tradeoffs between the wellbeing of different people.
  4. Identify ‘conflicted’ tradeoffs between ecosystem services, and between ES and the wellbeing of different user groups, and to deliver innovative tools that seek to mitigate trade-offs so as to reduce poverty and enhance sustainability. Conflicted tradeoffs can be defined as tradeoffs which result in direct harm to either poor people or the environment, and which, if addressed directly, hold potential for significant poverty reduction and sustainability impact.
  5. Use modelling, scenario and gaming tools with impact partners and stakeholders at a various levels of levels to build dynamic, holistic perspectives on change and identify pathways towards desirable future scenarios which deliver both poverty reduction and ES sustainability.

I work  chiefly with PI Tim Daw at Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden, on overall direction and integration of the research, and with Tom Chaigneau at ESI, Sarah Coulthard in Northumbria University focusing on wellbeing aspects of the work; Michalis Revatas at ESI and Christina Hicks at Lancaster University on cultural values and cultural ecosystem services. We have recently been awarded a supplement to the grant to work on the impact of recent El Nino on coastal communities in southern Kenya. We will examie in aprticular resileicne and vulnerability, and will build on some of the data we have worked collected in alst two years. We will work alongside Kenyan teams headed by Tim McClanahan and Nywira Muthiga at WCS, and James Kairo at KMFRI, and in collaboration with Mark Huxham at Edinburgh Napier University.

You can find out more about SPACES at our project website.