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E4 DTP - Valuing Ecosystem Services produced by the Colombian Páramos

  • Full or part time
  • Application Deadline
    Thursday, January 09, 2020
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description


This project will focus on the economic and social valuation of key ecosystem services in a globally iconic Paramo ecosystems in Colombia

Project background

The Páramos are tropical mountain wetlands found between 3000m and 4500m of elevation in the Andes. Known for their extreme water storage and regulation, they generate high and sustained base flows crucial for water provisioning to farmland, settlements and cities (e.g. Bogota) downstream. They are also an important repository of biodiversity with 86% of angiosperm species in Colombian Páramos endemic. Páramo areas are already degraded and their further demise is of great concern to local communities, regional and national policy and decision makers and researchers. All agree that further intensification and exploitation requires a sustainable approach. Páramos are shaped by the human populations that have inhabited them over several centuries. This socio-ecological interaction continues with local communities relying on the Páramo for their livelihoods (i.e. water, cattle and small-scale cropping) and their basic necessity could be a barrier to change and effective management.

Research questions
1) What are the key ecosystem service values in target Páramos and how are they generated in biophysical and social terms?
2) Can we integrate remotely sensed and field observations of land use and cover linked to a predictive model of water flows with socio economic data?
3) How should different onsite an offsite water uses be valued?
4) Can we develop equitable schemes to pay and compensate for the provision of ecosystem services?
The first phase of this PhD will consider the conceptualisation of hybrid methods for developing a production function approach to water valuation. The student will then interact with researchers on three separate NERC/Colciencias projects to develop data modelling techniques linking remotely sensed with local biophysical and socio economic data. The work will include a data collection period in Colombia

Year 1
Chapter planning, literature review, presentation and research skills courses. Attendance of appropriate masters degree modules – e.g., ecological economics and GIS/statistic/econometrics. Conference attendance. Field visits – possible link up with NERC projects in Colombia

Year 2
Data processing and analysis. Fieldwork. Conference attendance and period spent at CEH

Year 3
Model development, valuation sensitivity analysis, write up and publication planning


A comprehensive training programme will be provided comprising both specialist scientific training and generic transferable and professional skills includng Spanish language.

The scientific training includes modelling, programming, geo-processing tools and an introduction to epidemiology; e.g. ArcGIS and data statistical, using R scripts. Phase two of the project will required training in behavioural modelling.

This project arises in relation to our engagement in a recently funded suite of Colombia-Bio projects (UKRI) and related Colciencias projects (Colombia). You will be working alongside (UK and Colombian) hydrologists, spatial geographers, social scientist, economists and story tellers, engaged in two separate NERC/Newton funded research projects targeting the different ecosystem service values and the distributional impacts of alternative management and regulatory (water and land use) regimes in target sites. These projects will be developing high quality remotely sensed data as an input to inform the economic and social science of valuation methods, their application and value capture by relevant stakeholders. The PhD project will involve fieldwork in Colombia to investigate stakeholder perspectives and values.


Applicants from a quantitative disciplinary background (masters equivalent in maths, engineering, physics, biology, economics and agricultural sciences) aiming to develop cross-disciplinary skills and field work are particularly welcome.

Funding Notes


Applicants from a quantitative disciplinary background (masters equivalent in maths, engineering, physics, biology, economics and agricultural sciences) aiming to develop cross-disciplinary skills and field work are particularly welcome.

Application Process - View Website

Apply by Thu Jan 09 2020 at 12:00


Barbier, E. (2007) Valuing ecosystem services as productive inputs, Econ. Policy,(49): p. 178-229.; 35.
Water Benefit Certificates as a Conservation Strategy for High Andean Wetland in Colombia -Paramo de Santurbán (2017)
Bibiana Duarte-Abadía & Rutgerd Boelens (2016) Disputes over territorial boundaries and diverging valuation languages: the Santurban hydrosocial highlands territory in Colombia, Water International, 41:1, 15-36, DOI: 10.1080/02508060.2016.1117271

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