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Can Payments for Ecosystem Services deliver environmental benefits? A Randomised Control Trial in the Bolivian Highlands


College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering

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Prof J. Jones No more applications being accepted Competition Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About the Project

Julia P G Jones and James Gibbons (SENRGY) with Dr Nigel Asquith (Foundacion Natura Bolivia) as external advisor

There is increasing recognition that functioning ecosystems provide benefits to society. For example forests influence the global climate, and many people value the existence of biodiversity which forests support. However forests also influence livelihoods more directly through the quality of drinking water downstream. Following disappointing results of past efforts to slow global deforestation, there has been a recent explosion of interest in market-like mechanisms to capture ecosystem service values and so generate incentives for people to retain forest cover and manage forests sustainably (Payments for Ecosystem Services: PES). Over the last decade there has been a realisation that much environmental policy lacks a solid evidence base and that donors fund novel approaches without taking advantage of opportunities to learn during implementation. With PES projects being developed across the world, thorough evaluations of the approach is urgently needed. A Bolivian NGO Fundacion Natura Bolivia have established a PES Services scheme in the Bolivian highlands. Farmers are paid (in tools for economic development) conditional on conserving forest on their land and restricting cattle access to rivers. Foundacion Natura decided a robust evaluation of their approach was needed so explicitly designed their intervention as a Randomised Control Trial (with funding from NERC’s ESPA programme). In 2010 they started with baseline data collection in 130 communities; 68 communities were then selected to join the intervention (stratified for environmental and socio-economic variables). Payments started in 2011. We will use this unique set-up to answer questions such as 1) how effective has PES been at delivering environmental outcomes (forest extent and biodiversity–measured using satellite imagery and fixed point photography, repeated transects for indicator taxa), 2) what are the linkages between forest management and the spatial pattern of remaining forest cover on outcomes with relevance to human health (e.g. water quality, faecal coliform load).

Bangor is a major centre for the environmental sciences with substantial research funding from the Natural Environment Research Council. In addition to the university, Bangor hosts one of the four sites of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the headquarters of Countryside Council for Wales. Bangor University submitted 80 staff across environmental, land-use and biological sciences in the last Research Assessment Exercise, with ecology being the largest discipline: more than 45% of our research activity was graded in one of the top two categories (4* or 3*). The interdisciplinary College of Natural Sciences includes world-leading research in both ocean and terrestrial environmental sciences. The School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography has 30 academic staff and 60 PhD students (for whom our membership of the network www.fonaso.eu with six other leading European universities, and strategic partnerships with major tropical research institutions, including CATIE in Central America and the World Agroforestry Centre, are key institutional strengths). Our research foci are the ecology, conservation and sustainable management of global forest and agricultural ecosystems; plant and soil science; climate change and carbon accounting; sustainable food systems.

Spanish language skills are preferred (contact to discuss).

Informal enquiries should be addressed to [Email Address Removed]. To apply, please send a CV and covering letter with contact details for two referees by email to the principal supervisor, Dr Julia Jones. Closing date for applications: 30th April 2013.

Funding Notes

This studentship is subject to NERC funding rules. To check eligibility criteria all applicants must visit the NERC student eligibility webpage before making an application (http://www.nerc.ac.uk/funding/available/postgrad/eligibility.asp). Non-UK citizens and UK-citizens that are currently overseas are specifically encouraged to refer to the studentship handbook for detailed eligibility criteria. The successful applicant will receive a stipend and fees will be provided at the NERC rate.
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