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Linking biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services in the Great Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem (GSME) - drivers of change, causalities and sustainable management strategies

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - AfricanBioServices (Linking biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services in the Great Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem (GSME) - drivers of change, causalities and sustainable management strategies)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2019-08-31

Humans derive a large number of important benefits from natural ecosystems. Such ecosystems services include both direct benefits such as food, inspiration and improved mental well-being, income from recreation, and indirect benefits as flood and disease regulation.
Human dependence on ecosystems services is the tightest in developing regions of sub-Sahara Africa, where poverty reduces people’s capacity to capitalize on national resources other than those they can acquire from their direct surroundings, making people in developing countries much more sensitive to accelerated climate change than their developed counterparts. The resulting spiral of poverty exacerbated by increasing human populations, loss of natural habitats and biodiversity (climate change, land use change, overexploitation), deteriorate ecosystems services. Impairment of human welfare calls for innovative solutions that encompass the entire socio-ecological-economic system.
The aim of AfricanBioServices is to unravel how human population growth, land-use change and climate change affect human well-being. Firstly, the African continent harbors the fastest growing human population in the world. The pressure on natural resources in the Greater Serengeti-Mara Ecosystem (GSME) is increasing. Secondly, the agricultural and industrial development is modifying the way different areas are utilized, and in this ecosystem the natural landscape is changing quickly. Finally, the fast human population growth on the African continent, and the pressure on natural resources in the GSME is increasing. Based on this, AfricanBioServices aim to use data to develop novel sustainable solutions to achieve the twin goals of biodiversity protection and the improvement of benefits that people derive from the unique ecosystems within the region.
The available data to reach this aim are difficult to access, preventing them from being used to assist in interpretation on the status of biodiversity and livelihoods. There is also a need to identify and fill gaps in existing data by collecting new field data. The ultimate goal of AfricanBioServices is to bring together all existing and new data in a centralized database, which is user friendly and can be accessed by the scientific community, conservationists, and general public in the future.
Our aim during the first three years was to; 1) collect existing data related to GSME from relevant local institutions, 2) conduct fieldwork to fill gaps in existing data, 3) analyse collected data and develop models. Our goal is to build an open access database, which will include all relevant data collected during the lifespan of the project. The database is under establishment and will be open for public access soon after the project period.
AfricanBioServices has 7 work packages;
WP1 has collected existing data from institutions in Kenya and Tanzania, identified gaps, and assisted other WPs in collecting new data. Data for 301 activities is collected and gaps identified for 10% of the data, as reported in D 1.2. A Data Management Plan (D 1.4) is a guide for data collection and management.
WP2 is modelling how the drivers affects land use and in turn biodiversity and ecosystem function; by 1) quantitative modelling of land use, studying impact of land use, on 2) mammals (D 2.3) 3) productivity and nutrient cycling, and 4) biodiversity.
WP3 has completed two Ds (3.1 and 3.3) on the consequences of climate change for key aspects of biodiversity in the region. Relationships between trends in wildlife population abundance and trends in rainfall, temperature, human population size and livestock have been modelled.
WP4 combines field experiments and measurements on topsoil water balance and has rotated around the links between biodiversity and the core ecosystem services on which people in the region depend and is making good progress towards the analysis of ecosystem resilience across the landscape (D 4.1).
WP5 is conducting a major household survey by quantifying human livelihoods reliance on ecosystem services, modelling its determinants, assessing the household welfare consequences of changing ecosystem service delivery and regulations and evaluating livelihood strategies in response to changes. WP5 has completed four Ds
WP6 has been initiating innovative ways for communicating and disseminating the results of the project by; 1) Communicate results to the general public through stakeholder meetings, 2) external dissemination to academic, private and governmental sectors, and 3) internal dissemination through presentations at progress meetings. Both external and internal websites, as well as facebook, twitter and linketon sitest are established.
WP7 is responsible for the project coordination and management and oversees that achieving the objectives milestones and Ds in a timely manner to the highest possible standards.
Our hypothesis is that current patterns of biodiversity loss due to land use change and climate change negatively impacts key ecosystem services. This decreases human well-being by exacerbating poverty, and associated unsustainable human population growth. Our goal is to explore and communicate alternative forms of land use and natural resource exploitation so people in the region will be able to keep gaining long-term benefits from natural ecosystems. AfricanBioServices contributes with “Enhanced predictive capacity concerning causalities between biodiversity and ecosystem provision on the one hand and the drivers of change and ecosystem services on the other”. Important impacts are;
• The interlinked key drivers is studied both in isolation and in combination.
• We aim to improve our general understanding of the connections between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, such as resilience, by increasing the knowledge of the fundamental causalities between biodiversity, ecosystem functions and the key drivers.
• This allow a better identification and scenario analysis (forecasts) of future perturbations in environmental services and its implications for nature and human populations.
Our contribution is to;
• Develop a survey tool to determine the cash and subsistence importance of ‘environmental income’.
• Establish a transboundary model database for the integration data from all relevant sources.
• Stimulate the use of citizen science and crowd sourcing, using community facilitators as a link between scientists and local communities. This innovative method will enhance citizen awareness and participation.
We will enhance citizen awareness and participation by;
• Involvement of local stakeholders which will have a major impact on how managers and policy makers will assess African ecosystem services in future years.
• Including community facilitators to disseminate results.
We will contributes to the achievement of EU and international biodiversity targets;
• By focusing on the GSME, a world-famous World-Heritage-Site and Biosphere Reserve biodiversity hotspot which support the concern for food security in Europe and beyond.
Finally, we addresses the three main goals of the Convention on Biological Diversity:
• By providing an overview of the status and indicators of the current state of the biodiversity by analysing the use of the biodiversity developing sustainable solutions by focusing on how ecosystem services are best exploited in the most sustainable and fair way.
Figure 1C. Land use change
Figure 1B. Human Population Growth.
Figure 1A. Climate change