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From land cover to land use: Understanding the links between people and nature in Wales to develop a spatial understanding of how people within Wales use the natural resources that are available to them

Project Description

Applications are invited for a three-year Drapers’ research PhD studentship in ecosystem services at the School of the Environment, Natural Resources & Geography and the Sir William Roberts Centre for Land Use (Pobl y Tir), Bangor University, UK. The supervisors are Dr Simon Willcock and Prof Julia Jones (both Bangor University) and Prof James Bullock (Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Wallingford; CEH).

Ecosystem services – nature’s contributions to people – are of global importance to human well-being. Functioning ecosystems supply basic needs (provisioning services such as food, fuel), benefit us through the regulation of ecosystem processes (regulating services such as water purification) and provide cultural services in terms of opportunities for recreation and a sense of place. However, both locally and globally, ecosystem services are increasingly threatened by human activities such as overexploitation and degradation. As a result, the Welsh Government has adopted the Ecosystem Approach as a strategy for the integrated management of natural resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way, ensuring the well-being of both future generations and the environment.

Despite ecosystem services innately being produced by social-ecological systems (i.e. via complex interactions among biological species, human activities and the abiotic environment), most national-scale ecosystem service data are derived from land cover. Whilst land cover may provide estimates of potential ecosystem services (biophysical supply) with reasonable accuracy, using these data to support decisions surrounding realised ecosystem service values (i.e. use of services) may confuse or misdirect both policy formulation and management activities. For example, land cover-based methods identify temperate forest as providing high levels of recreation, food production, raw materials (e.g. timber), and climate regulation. However, supply of these services may be mutually exclusive (a forest being managed to maximise timber extraction may not provide high values for recreation), and the level of use is likely dependent on the socio-economic status of the surrounding area (e.g. forests near large population centres experience a very high level of use for recreation). Hence, to understand the delivery of ecosystem services to society and concomitantly synergies/trade-offs in use between beneficiaries and the sustainability of this use, natural capital studies need to move beyond land cover to land use.

The aim of this PhD is to develop a spatial understanding of how people within Wales use the natural resources that are available to them, developing a national map of land use and highlighting which ecosystem services are used by whom and where. For all categories of ecosystem services (provisioning, regulating & cultural), we will advance theory by better understanding how people access and use ecosystem services from which ecosystems, how such benefits contribute to people’s well-being, how barriers prevent or reduce these benefits, and the sustainability of each of these processes. We will address these issues using participatory methods to co-produce data, drawing on the knowledge of local people and GIS modelling. We will answer the following research questions:
1. How do beneficiaries ‘flow’ to ecosystems? That is, what determines who uses what ecosystem service and where they use them? Does this vary between urban and rural systems?
2. Is the well-being of urban people less reliant on ecosystem services when compared to those in rural regions? Does this reliance vary across different social groups or different ecosystem services?
3. How do perceptions and experiences of the sustainability of ecosystem services use vary across different social groups (e.g. rural-urban, men-women)?
4. What barriers, stresses and shocks impact on people’s access and use of ecosystem services?

To apply, please submit a CV (max 2 pages) together with a covering letter to Dr Simon Willcock at by Monday the 30th April 2018. Interviews will be scheduled for week beginning 4th June 2018.

Funding Notes

The studentship is funded by the Drapers’ Company, covering tuition fees and a tax-free stipend at the standard RCUK rate (£14,000 per year). Co-funding is provided by CEH (£1,000 per yield for fieldwork).

The successful candidate will have a first or upper second-class degree (or equivalent) in geography or any other relevant area of the natural or social sciences, strong experience with both quantitative and spatial research methods (i.e. GIS), and ideally some social research experience. To comply with the requirements of our funder, applicants should be under the age of 25 and be from the UK, or especially Wales.

How good is research at Bangor University in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences?
(joint submission with Aberystwyth University)

FTE Category A staff submitted: 35.35

Research output data provided by the Research Excellence Framework (REF)

Click here to see the results for all UK universities

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