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Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences - Biogeography

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences | Geography Department | Biogeography | News | Shifting to a Land Systems Paradigm in Conservation (SystemShift)

Shifting to a Land Systems Paradigm in Conservation (SystemShift)


Photo: Yawar Motion Films / D. Alarcón / O. Rodas

Project summary:

Biodiversity loss is a global crisis threatening human wellbeing, and the main driver is how we use land. Decisions about land use are made in social-ecological systems, yet conservation science is currently ill-equipped to consider the complex and dynamic interactions between land-use actors and their environment. This translates into conservation failures and missed opportunities. My overarching goal is to develop interdisciplinary concepts and approaches to establish a new, social-ecological perspective on land use in conservation. This promises major breakthroughs in our understanding of threats to biodiversity and how to design effective conservation strategies. My project will be organized in three main steps. STEP 1 will develop novel concepts to identify key combinations of land-use actors, practices, and threats to biodiversity, and organize them into a systems typology for conservation. This step will also design innovative indicators to map how threats vary and interact in space and time. I will apply and test these concepts for poorly studied tropical dry forests globally. STEP 2 will empirically validate these concepts for two tropical dry forests regions in South America. Comparative social-ecological fieldwork will reveal how threats impact biodiversity, how land-use actors relate to threats, and how conservation actions influence actors. This will enable a major advance in conservation planning methods to consider land-use actors and dynamic threats, and to rigorously evaluate when and where conservation is most effective. STEP 3 will integrate the project results to provide new, generalized insights into conservation challenges and opportunities in tropical dry forests globally, and to develop a novel land-systems framework for conservation. My project will cross-fertilise between land system science and conservation science, laying the foundation for a new research agenda that integrates complex land systems into biodiversity conservation.