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Indirect impacts of commodity crop expansion on forest resource use and wildlife exploitation

Department of Environment and Geography

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Dr C West , Dr J Green No more applications being accepted Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Strategies such as “Trade not aid” and “Aid for trade” are predicated on the idea that international trade can advance the agenda for international development, pulling communities out of poverty. However, international demand for commodities can also drive severe social and environmental damage. The livelihoods and welfare of farmers and producers in the Global South are well studied and the transition from subsistence to commodity crop farming often herald, and are heralded by, broader shifts within the community - from changing demographics, to changes in investment and employment opportunities.

Similar to commodity farming, access to national and international markets precedes the shift from subsistence to commercial hunting and trapping of wildlife. Trade in wild species for food (e.g. ‘bushmeat’) or as pets (e.g. birds, reptiles) can have local, national or international dimensions. In many parts of the world, bushmeat is a key source of protein in subsistence communities yet, as species become rarer, their value as a traded commodity will increase. We can expect local scarcity to be reflected in exclusion from (or reduction in) local diets, while high prices in domestic or international markets for ‘prized’ species and bushmeat can drive targeted hunting that may force population- and species-level extinctions, creating so-called ‘empty forests’.
This doctoral training opportunity is part of the UKRI GCRF Trade, Development and the Environment (TRADE) Hub, a collaboration with over 50 partner organisations from 15 different countries that aims to help make sustainable trade a positive force in the world.
This PhD will investigate how commodity food crop supply chain dynamics influence the exploitation and harvest of wild species to understand both the direct and indirect pathways by trade development could impact upon wildlife. Working with Trade Hub colleagues, you will use historical analysis of land use dynamics as well as scenarios of market development and commodity crop expansion to assess how impacts on biodiversity propagate away from the site of initial crop expansion to the surrounding landscape.

Trade Hub’s work is focused in Brazil, Cameroon, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Indonesia, Republic of Congo, and Tanzania, and experience and expertise in at least one of these countries will be a benefit. Some fieldwork is anticipated to gather data on household consumption patterns and livelihood generation and language skills in your focal country(ies) alongside experience in gathering socioeconomic data will be a major advantage.

You will be based at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) in York,, where you will work within the Sustainable Consumption and Production group supervised by Dr Chris West and Dr Jonathan Green. SEI is a leading global environmental policy institute, with one of its largest centres embedded within the Department of Environment and Geography. This unique arrangement allows postgraduate researchers to gain a research degree from the department, whilst simultaneously benefiting from SEI’s strong links to global policy makers and international connections with other SEI centres in Stockholm, Bangkok, Nairobi and Bogota.

We welcome applications from motivated and independently-minded candidates that are able to work as part of a team to address a global and systemic challenge. Candidates should provide a two page proposal that develops the above outline further and/or address a similar problem space, central to the aims of the Trade Hub. Funded under the GCRF, the scholarship is primarily aimed at international students from an ODA country; however any international student is welcome to apply.

To apply for this position, please apply to our Environmental Economics and Environmental Management (EEEM) PhD degree for a January 2021 start date: Please reference the PhD advert "GCRF Trade Hub: Indirect impacts of commodity crop expansion on forest resource use and wildlife exploitation" and identify Dr Chris West as your potential supervisor.

Funding Notes

Co-funded by SEI and the University of York, and linked to Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Trade Hub. Funding will cover tuition fees, 36 months of stipend at the UKRI rate, and research expenses.


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