ISU – A new modelling approach to ecosystem services takes Bilbao by storm!!

The urban working group

The urban working group

Between March 10th and March 22nd of 2013, people from all corners of the world took part in the 1st International Spring University (ISU) on Ecosystem Services Modelling (ES-M). The 2-week intensive course was designed to empower a new generation of actors, in research, environmental science, policy and management, who could have a greater impact through the use of ecosystem service (ES) models to address climate change, natural hazards and sustainability problems. ISU instruction focused on advanced ES modelling techniques and employed a problem-based paradigm via case studies which were defined by the course participants. The course was a unique opportunity for both instructors and participants to learn from each other.

The ISU was organized by the Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3), the UNESCO Chair on “Sustainable Development and Environmental Education” of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) and The City Council of Bilbao, in collaboration with Conservation International, Earth Economics, and the University of Vermont.

ISU organizers identified 5 case study themes around which the course was focused. The themes were selected based on instructor experience and the application materials supplied by the participants prior to the start of the course. The five themes included:

  • Agricultural systems & food security: aiming to assess the trade‐offs between ES provided by natural and agricultural systems.
  • Ecosystem Services in Latin America: aiming to model a suite of ES in Latin America, with specific emphasis on the exploration of the trade‐offs between biodiversity, water supply and carbon sequestration and storage.
  • Marine and Island systems: aiming to model ES spanning the terrestrial to marine interface in an effort to value the economic benefits/costs that different social groups might obtain.
  • Mountain systems and cultural landscapes: Aiming to explore the trade-offs between different types of cultural, regulating and provisioning ES values.
  • Urban systems: aiming to quantify and integrate the parameters associated with provisioning and regulating services in an urban setting, with the goal of identifying linkages between urban and rural landscapes for improving/sustaining the delivery of ES to urban populations.
ISU participants and organizers at the Guggenheim Museum

ISU participants and organizers at the Guggenheim Museum

Participants were allocated to work on a theme according to their expertise and interest. Each group was assigned the task of developing a set of ES models linked to their theme. The diversity of backgrounds, both geographical and professional, ensured a continuous flow of interesting and instructive discussions about the latest developments in ES modelling techniques, and common difficulties encountered by participants (and their home institutions) when attempting to foster sustainability through the use, management and regulation of ES.

Furthermore, the course was luxuriously cushioned by the beautiful settings of Bilbao, well known for its hidden delights, and paramount hospitality.

In a nutshell, the 1st annual ISU was a very successful international exchange on “advanced modelling techniques” and serves as the first steps towards an emerging ES modelling community. The development of such a community offers an excellent opportunity to improve our understanding of ES and the myriad of approaches that can be taken to model and quantify them.

If any of the above has tickled your curiosity, you can join in the continuing activity taking place on the ISU forum.  If you are interested in taking part in a future edition of the ISU, keep a watch on regular updates at the ISU website, or send an email expressing your interest to

Online now: Lake Chilwa Basin Climate Change Adaptation Programme

Small-scale fisheries, Lake Chilwa, Malawi. Photo by Randall Brummett, 2002

Small-scale fisheries, Lake Chilwa, Malawi. Photo by Randall Brummett, 2002

The important ASSETS partners LEAD and WorldFish in Malawi are involved in the Lake Chilwa Basin Climate Change Adaptation Programme (LCBCCAP). This is a five-year programme whose overall goal is to secure the livelihood of 1.5 million people in the Lake Chilwa Basin and enhance resilience of their natural resource base.

The programme aims to achieve this goal through development and implementation of basin-wide climate change adaptations in support of the Malawi National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPA) to enhance the capacity of communities to adopt sustainable livelihood and natural resource management practices.

Check out the programmes website for more details.


Addressing Climate Change Challenges from a Multidisciplinary Perspective

The BC3, the Basque centre for climate change is carrying out its IV Summer School from 8th- 10th of July, 2013 at the Palacio Miramar in San Sebastian.

The objective of the BC3 summer school is to offer an updated and multidisciplinary view of the ongoing trends in climate change research. The BC3 summer school is organized in collaboration with the University of the Basque Country and is a high quality and excellent summer course gathering leading experts in the field and students from top universities and research centres worldwide.

This year the 2013 summer school, entitled “Addressing Climate Change Challenges from a Multidisciplinary Perspective”, will be structured similarly to IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change) assessment reports. For this purpose, we have invited researchers that can help us to better understand the biophysical part behind the economics of climate change. The course will have three main sessions/days, each of them focusing on one of the subjects of the IPCC Working Groups: climate science; adaptation and impacts; and mitigation of climate change. An IPCC-member scientist will be a keynote lecturer for each session. After that, top leading invited speakers will cover in more detail the main key issues in the climate change research agenda.

The topics that will be covered this year are: artic sea ice dynamics; ocean circu
The school is open to Master students, PhD students, postdoctoral fellows and other researchers as well as policy makers interested in acquiring a deep understanding of climate change and the policies designed to fight it.lation models and their implications for state-shift events; sea level rise projections and implications; impacts of climate change on water, food and health; mitigation options: technologies and cost; climate policies at global level, and economic instruments.

PhD students and postdoctoral participants will have the opportunity to present their work in a specific poster session and get feedback from the faculty.

Please have a look at for further details and registration.

ESPA Deltas researcher at UNESCO Regional Workshop on Sustainability Science

Dr Craig Hutton, ESPA Deltas Research Co-ordinator, member of SSS and Senior Researcher at the GeoData Institute, Geography & Environment Academic Unit, University of Southampton, will be presenting work carried out by the ESPA Assessing Health, Livelihoods, Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation in Populous (Deltas) project and contributing to developing Sustainability Science as a strategic agenda for policy at the UNESCO Regional Workshop on Sustainability Science entitled ‘A Science based Approach to realise the Future We Want for All’ UNESCO in collaboration with ISTIC and MEXT – Japan Local Host: Lestari, UKM. 4 – 5 April 2013, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

For further information see: or here

ASSETS-PI talks about Global Food Security at the 1st TEDxSouthamptonUniversity

Professor Guy Poppy talked about Global Food Security at the 1st TEDxSouthamptonUniversity on March 17th 2013. How can 7 Billion people be fed in harmony with nature and in peaceful societies? Guy suggests approaches to move into the future.

For those who could not be at the venue and also those who want to listen again, please enjoy the talk online – thanks to the TEDx organisers:

Researchers travel to the Colombian Amazon to understand the relations between ecosystem services, food security and health using participatory methods

Indigenous community

Indigenous community in the study area (Photo: Gisella Cruz-Garcia)

A team of biologists and anthropologists left to the depths of the Colombian Amazon, as part of the first phase of fieldwork for the ASSETS project ‘Managing ecosystem services for food security and the nutritional health of the rural poor at the forest-agricultural interface”. The fieldwork consists of the use of various participatory methods with different indigenous communities in the region. Although these communities are made up of people with diverse ethnic backgrounds such as Yucuna, Tanimuca, Cubeo, Miraña and Macuna, all of them depend directly and indirectly on the forest to survive.

The researchers followed a recent training on participatory methods prepared by the University of Southampton that took place in Leticia in February jointly coordinated with Conservation International (CI) and CIAT. Researchers learned to effectively use different participatory tools such as participatory GIS mapping, wellbeing rankings, transect walks, seasonal calendars, household system diagrams, cause-effect diagrams, community timelines, matrix scoring exercises, trend analysis and focus group discussions on land use, food security, coping strategies, ecosystem services and resource governance. As part of the PRA training, the researchers pre-tested the methods in a pilot site indigenous community located near Leticia.

PRA training

Training in participatory methods, Leticia (Photo: Paul Peters)

The Lower Caqueta is characterized by the presence of large forest reserves assigned to indigenous communities that traditionally practice hunting, gathering, fishing, and slash-and-burn agriculture. The results from this region will be compared with those from the other study sites of ASSETS, where there are increasing levels of deforestation.

It is expected that PRA exercises in the Lower Caqueta will be finished by mid-June. The second phase of fieldwork data collection of the project will consist of household surveys to deepen the understanding and analysis of the topic.

The original post was published at  the Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) blog of CIAT.

“Science needs to be believable”

WWD Team

From left to right: Dr Carlos Torres Vitolas (University of Southampton); Dr Simon Willcock (University of Southampton); Dr Daniela Russi (Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP)); Dr Kate Schreckenberg (University of Southampton); Dr Felix Eigenbrod (University of Southampton); Dr James Dyke (University of Southampton); Professor Guy Poppy (University of Southampton); Dr Yvan Biot (UK Government Department for International Development (DFID), Dr Malcolm Hudson (University of Southampton); Dr Jim Wright (University of Southampton); Alison Simmance (University of Southampton); Dr Kirsten Probst (German Development Agency (GIZ)); Robert Matthews University of Bristol; Carolin Bothe- Tews (University of Southampton); and Dr Craig Hutton (University of Southampton)

“Science needs to be believable”, stated Yvan Biot of DFID during his talk at “Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation & World Water Day 2013”, University of Southampton.

The mix of speakers covered the very latest developments of ecosystem services activities nationally and internationally. A good discussion on how policy can apply this new field of research more comprehensively followed the talks. Plans on future collaborations were made.

It was the first year that the University of Southampton formally celebrated the international World Water Day and the ESPA (Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation) event certainly provided new insights into challenges, benefits and future opportunities for ‘water cooperation’. The entire day touched on all the multifaceted challenges re. water resource management and it was clear that a multidisciplinary approach is critical to bringing solutions to this pressing societal challenge.

Listen to interviews with the speakers Yvan Biot and Daniela Russi.

Presentations and videos:


Meet the speakers II – World Water Day 2013

f-guyTwo more days to go until our event “Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation & World Water Day 2013”. Meet more of our speakers and make sure to come along on the 22nd March 2013 from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM (GMT). The venue is University of Southampton, Highfield Campus, Building 44, Room 1041.

Guy Poppy is a professor in ecology, specialising in managing ecosystems for food security at the University of Southampton. He is currently the university’s director of multidisciplinary research. Amongst many other projects he leads the multidisciplinary projects ESPA ASSETS – “Attaining Sustainable Services from Ecosystems Through trade-off Scenarios”. Beyond University commitments he is one of the directors of Marwell Wildlife Zoo.

f-kateKate Schreckenberg’s research experience spans over 20 years in Africa, Asia and Latin America and includes work with UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Programme, a PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies and 13 years of policy-focused research with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), London. Throughout, her main focus has been on investigating how farmers can individually and collectively obtain greater benefits from their natural resources, the role of institutions in natural resource governance and, most recently, on equity within ecosystem service markets.

craig-huttonCraig Hutton is a member of the Southampton GeoData Institute and the Research Co-ordinator of the ESPA-Deltas Project. He has a longterm experience of project development, research, management and research coordination in the fields of Natural Resource Management, Climate Change, ecosystem services and vulnerability mapping in a development context.

See also meet the speakers I.

Meet the speakers I – World Water Day 2013

2013_300x58white.jpgDaniela-RussiWe are getting closer to our event “Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation & World Water Day 2013” on coming Friday. Please learn about our interesting speakers and make sure to come along on the 22nd March 2013 from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM (GMT). The venue is University of Southampton, Highfield Campus, Building 44, Room 1041.

Daniela Russi is a policy analyst at the Institute for European Environmental Policy. She specialises in payments for ecosystem services, policies on water and wetlands and ecosystem capital/environmental accounting. She graduated in Environmental Economics at the University of Siena, Italy, and obtained a PhD in Environmental Sciences/Ecological Economics from the Autonomous University of Barcelona in 2007, with a thesis on integrated assessment of energy policies.

kirsten-probstKirsten Probst is a Senior Advisor at GIZ’s Division “Environment and Climate Change” in Eschborn, Germany. She has 15 years of experience in international development cooperation – mainly in the area of biodiversity and natural resources management. yvan-biotAfter a long-term assignment as GTZ (now GIZ) advisor to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism in Namibia (2005-early 2010), she currently mainly oversees GIZ’s biodiversity-related project portfolio in Southern and Eastern Africa. Kirsten and her project colleagues are Member of the ASSETS advisory board.

Yvan Biot is a senior scientist in the office of DFID’s Chief Scientific Advisor. Prior to this role, he headed DFID’s Climate Change and Environment research team. From 2008-09 Yvan was a member of the Board of the Adaptation Fund. Yvan joined the home civil service in 2004 after a +20yrs overseas career in soils, land use and forestry. He is a Corresponding Member of the Royal Academy for Overseas sciences, Belgium.


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