Integrating Ecology and Poverty Reduction: Ecological Dimensions

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By experimental design we refer to studies that have a randomised, controlled research design whereas quasi-experimental designs have a control but are not randomised. Non-experimental research designs have no control and encompass a huge range of research methods. It was not possible to determine the research design in all the studies — some reported data without providing any details on how they were obtained.

We also looked at the extent to which studies had addressed issues which we expected would moderate the biodiversity-poverty relationship. These included the governance regime, resource rights regime, land tenure, power relations, distribution of costs and benefits, and trade-offs. It has been noted that studies relevant to links between poverty and biodiversity tend to treat poverty as a uni-dimensional issue related to income [ 12 ].

Our analysis certainly confirmed the dominance of income as a measure of poverty. However, over half the sources of evidence did measure more than one dimension of poverty, challenging the earlier characterization of the literature. A large proportion of all studies either did not mention or did not specify the aspect or dynamic of poverty they were measuring, suggesting that these issues may not have been considered important by researchers.

Integrating Ecology and Poverty Reduction

Given the well-established importance of relative versus absolute and temporal versus chronic poverty [ 25 , 27 ] this is an area requiring more research, or at the very least more clarity in future publications. The dominance of studies in forest systems is interesting, given that poor people make use of biodiversity in a wide range of different ecosystems.


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It seems unlikely that studies based in forests would be disproportionately likely to be identified by our search, so we suggest that the relationship between poverty and biodiversity in non-forest habitats is an area requiring further study. The importance of biodiversity — for fodder, fibre and medicines — seems obvious but is poorly studied and documented [ 29 ]. It is interesting, however, to note the lack of studies that consider the importance of diversity per se.

Given that by some interpretations biodiversity only refers to diversity, and not other attributes of living organisms, this is perhaps a cause for concern.

It is perhaps not surprising that the most commonly cited component of biodiversity under study was NTFPs given the preponderance of studies based in forest habitats. This does seem to confirm once again that the evidence base is strongest in regard to the use made of forest products by the poor. We encountered a wide range of species that were classified as NTFPs.

Further disaggregation and analysis would provide greater understanding of which particular species — or NTFP properties — appear to be particularly valuable for different groups of poor people in different ecological and governance contexts. The evidence base on biodiversity — poverty linkages is dominated by studies of the direct, consumptive, use of biodiversity by people.

Very few studies reported negative impacts on poverty, which is partly due to our decision to exclude health impacts of pathogens. Nonetheless, it does seem that there is very little research into negative impacts of biodiversity on poverty beyond human-wildlife conflict studies. Our exercise returned remarkably few studies on issues such as live animal trade, aquaculture and agrobiodiversity. More focussed systematic maps would be useful to determine if this lack of studies is a consequence of the limitations of our search string, or indeed whether further research on these issues is needed.

Because the majority of studies that we found were focussed on the consumptive use of biodiversity by people, it is not surprising that the most common relationships between biodiversity and poverty reported were related to meeting subsistence needs and generating a source of income. We were surprised by the number of studies that included no information about the sustainability of biodiversity use given that this is of critical importance to any discussion of the relationship between biodiversity and poverty.

Measuring sustainability is clearly challenging, in that it requires long term studies and a sophisticated understanding of ecological processes that produce biodiversity of value to the poor. This is an area clearly in need of further research. The limited number of studies we found that had adopted experimental or quasi-experimental research designs is consistent with the findings of other researchers who have called for more controlled studies and counterfactual analysis [ 31 ].

Thus we did not find research design to be a good indicator of quality — although it was equally frustrating to identify case studies — particularly in the grey literature — that presented data without providing any insights into how those data were collected or validated. We attempted to balance a focus on research design with an assessment of the extent to which key issues that have an impact of the relationship between biodiversity and poverty had been addressed in studies but again the degree to which different issues are relevant in different contexts is highly variable and thus their treatment not a comparable indicator of quality.

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Further debate is required as to what constitutes high or low quality evidence when attempting to evaluate complex, real-world situations rather than tightly defined interventions with suitable counter-factual sites for analysis [ 32 — 34 ] — particularly if full systematic reviews are conducted in the future to explore more specific questions within the topic of the link between biodiversity and poverty. While we eliminated the irrelevant material we also recognised that our search has missed areas of relevant literature.

This suggests that we may have chosen our initial keywords poorly, and also reinforces the point that no matter how objective and systematic the review, it is only ever as good as the keywords and reviewers.

Shortcomings in our coverage of the specific types of use people make of biodiversity such as through wildlife trade could be rectified in subsequent maps by further refinement and testing of our search terms. But in part the limitations of our search are influenced by the complexity of biodiversity and the difficulties in constructing a search string that accounts for that complexity. Thus we have identified no studies, for example, on the role of below-ground biodiversity in maintaining or improving soil productivity which in turn results in improved crop productivity which in turn contributes to increased income and improved food security.

While we have sought to map the evidence base it is not clear the extent to which evidence exists and was not captured in our search, or simply does not exist. Nevertheless, we generated a database of nearly studies that document the influence positive and negative of one or more components of biodiversity on one or more dimensions of poverty and within that, a subset of studies that have actually sought to measure that effect in some quantifiable way. While the studies are not directly comparable owing to the wide variety of metrics used as well as the different scale of analysis and study designs, collectively the map can shed light on the validity of claims that conserving biodiversity can reduce poverty.

The implications for policy and research are discussed below. The map includes evidence on a wide range of different components of biodiversity - but particularly species and ecosystems - affecting different dimensions of poverty — particularly income, assets and food security. The overwhelming majority of studies indicates a positive influence of biodiversity on poverty. The systematic map highlighted the difficulties in comprehensively reviewing the evidence on biodiversity-poverty in one study.

We have identified a number of apparent gaps in the evidence base but given the difficulties we encountered in ensuring a comprehensive search we would recommend, in the first instance, further analysis to determine which of these are real knowledge gaps that require primary research as opposed to gaps resulting from limitations of our search strategy. It was noticeable from our map that in the majority of the literature biodiversity is framed in terms of its value as a resource — in the form of specific goods that can be used to generate tangible benefits such as cash, food, fuel.

Very few studies explored the underpinning role of biodiversity in ecosystem service delivery — as it is framed in the MA — and fewer really investigated the benefits of genetic diversity in terms of increasing resilience and adaptive capacity. Key areas that we identified for follow-up research are:. Investigation into the value role of diversity over abundance of resources. The majority of the studies we identified implied that the abundance or availability of particular species or resources was more critical than their diversity.

Quantifying the value of diversity and where it is particularly important in delivering ecosystem services would make a significant contribution to the biodiversity-poverty debate. More research on less tangible components of biodiversity. We found few studies that dealt with genetic diversity, microbes or even invertebrates. The studies that have been undertaken to date barely scratch the surface in terms of the full complement of biodiversity.

Biodiversity-poverty trade-offs: We were surprised that more studies did not consider the sustainability of biodiversity use. More research into key factors underlying sustainability in different contexts and for different types of use, as well as consideration of thresholds and tipping points would help decision-makers balance the drive for poverty reduction with the need for biodiversity conservation. Long vs short term biodiversity-poverty links: The majority of the evidence we found documented the contribution of biodiversity to short term needs. More detailed, sector-by-sector reviews on key mechanisms for generating value from biodiversity including wildlife trade, crop improvements, fishing etc.

Analyses of biodiversity-poverty interactions in non-forest ecosystems particularly those that are home to significant numbers of poor people such as drylands. Its draft work programme for — [ 37 ] includes guidance on how to address and include indigenous and local knowledge within its scientific assessments as a key early deliverable. DR and CS jointly designed the research. MF and CS conducted the statistical analysis of results. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. Montreal: Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity; Science , —8. New York: United Nations; Oryx , 38 2 — An Explorative Study.

Bilthoven: Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency; A state of knowledge review.

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Integrating Ecology and Poverty Reduction: Ecological Dimensions. | Water, Land and Ecosystems

Edited by: Roe D. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell; Vira B, Kontoleon A, et al. A State of Knowledge Review. Washington DC: World Bank; Sen A: Development as Freedom. London: Zed Books; Randall NP, James K: The effectiveness of integrated farm management, organic farming and agri-environment schemes for conserving biodiversity in temperate Europe - A systematic map. J Env Evid , 1: 4. Science , — TREE , 19— Env Evid 2 1 :. SciVerse Scopus. Web of knowledge. Poverty and Conservation Learning Group.

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Lincoln Fishpool: Pers Comm. Suich H: Conceptual Framework: Poverty. Manchester: University of Manchester; Int For Rev , 5 2 — PNAS , 34 — Oryx , 47 3 — Their educational and professional backgrounds in ecology, geography, and sustainable development have served as the inspiration for this book and their professional pursuits. The editors hope that the issues presented and explored in this volume will serve to encourage ecological scientists and practitioners in international development fields to collaborate together to identify creative, sustainable and viable solutions to challenges preventing poverty alleviation around the world.

The second volume of this series, Integrating Ecology into Global Poverty Reduction Efforts: Opportunities and solutions, builds upon the first volume, Integrating Ecology into Global Poverty Reduction Efforts: The ecological dimensions to poverty, by exploring the way in which ecological science and tools can be applied to address major development challenges associated with rural poverty.

In volume 2, we explore how ecological principles and practices can be integrated, conceptually and practically, into social, economic, and political norms and processes to positively influence poverty and the environment upon which humans depend.

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Specifically, these chapters explore how ecological science, approaches and considerations can be leveraged to enhance the positive impacts of education, gender relations, demographics, markets and governance on poverty reduction. Myers Contents note continued: Ostfeld Doll Notes Includes bibliographical references and index. Dewey Number View online Borrow Buy Freely available Show 0 more links Set up My libraries How do I set up "My libraries"?

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