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Soil Carbon and Poverty Alleviation

These activities serve as the integration focal point to combine social, economic and environmental information collected in the other two main work areas using Socio-Ecological Systems (SES) approaches. If and how soil carbon can improve the wellbeing of the poor depends on understanding institutional settings that constrain and influence livelihoods, land-use and life-choices, as well as understanding the biophysical processes that determine how soil carbon affects, and is affected by, land-use choices and future environmental change.

Our Aims

It is crucial to take a SES approach to understand the links between soil carbon and poverty, and how interventions may (or may not) influence this system to reduce aspects of poverty and improve well-being. The key aspect will be to formalise the linkages between the multiple social and biophysical components making up the SES to investigate the dependence between them, opportunities for intervention to alleviate poverty through soil management and trade-offs within the SES. Integrating these components will enable us to research the effectiveness of intervention mechanisms. We define effectiveness to include the equity (benefit transfer to the poor) and trade-offs between these and other consequences, and the need to avoid maladaptation. The purpose is to inform how resilience can be built into the SES and the intervention mechanisms to achieve ‘multiple win’ solutions. To achieve the integration we will use (1) Bayesian Belief Networks (BBN) as a synthesis tool, as it enables the integration of qualitative and quantitative information and knowledge, being highly useful when only partial data is available, and (2) bio-economic modelling, operating at the household scale to work in parallel with the BBN get a better and more comprehensive indication of the feedback effects between human activity and natural resources. These models provide important tools for policy analysis to better understand pathways of development and to assess the impact of alternative policies, land uses and management options on the natural resource base and human welfare. They provide a better and more comprehensive indication of the feedback effects between human activity and natural resources. This work will further be integrated with climate proofing investigations to examine the consequences of impacts on the SES (from the climate impacts, mitigation and adaptation policies) and identify threats, risks and opportunities. The aim is to better understand the relative importance of social, economic or environmental constraints in alleviating poverty and how intervention options focussed on soil carbon may (or may not) influence this system to reduce poverty and improve well-being in the short- medium- and long-term. 

The main tasks to be undertaken are to:

  • Conduct participatory systems modelling using BBNs and GIS with bio-economic modelling, aligning data and information gathering to co-construct SES representation in BBN and bio-economic modelling frameworks, considering climate change pathways.
  • Integrate climate change storylines (narratives informed by the Representative Concentration Pathways, Shared Socio-economic Pathways and Shared Policy Assumptions) with climate projections, incorporating evaluation of uncertainty to investigate the impacts of climate change on the SES.
  • Integrate outcomes of soils modelling under climate change and impacts on ecosystem services to inform feedback loops to identify adaptation opportunities and intervention options, considering risks and exceeded thresholds necessitating change in land use.
  • Construct scenarios of adaptation opportunities and intervention options, variable by different drivers (climate, policy, economic) and investigate trade-offs and consequences on the SES.
  • Identify adaptation and intervention options at variable spatial and temporal scales that achieve multiple win solutions for poverty alleviation and maintenance or enhancement of ecosystem services, and set out the actions required.