Governance and the Anthropocene
This research focuses on how governance can be reformed to enable society to cope with - and adapt to - increasingly strong drivers of environmental change, such as climate change and land degradation. Governance shapes how people affect ecosystems, and how society reacts to environmental change. Yet governance and policies are often not fit-for-purpose, i.e. they are not designed to address the right spatial scales, intervene at the right times, or target the most critical causes of ecosystem decline. Governance reform can both address these shortcomings and help to reframe conservation objectives in the Anthropocene.
I have written a book to be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2020: Governing the Anthropocene: Novel Ecosystems, Transformation, and environmental policy: available here. This book discusses the unprecedented, intensifying, and widespread human impacts on natural systems. In this new epoch, the Anthropocene, the already rapid rate of species loss is amplified by climate change and other stress factors, causing transformation of highly-valued landscapes. Many locations are already transforming into novel ecosystems, where new species, interactions, and ecological functions are creating landscapes unlike anything seen before. This has sparked contentious debate not just about science, but about decision-making, responsibility, fairness, and human capacity to intervene.
My research focuses on the science-policy interface, and how governance can be improved to more effectively confront the many challenges of the Anthropocene. The book focuses on the present and future challenges of managing ecosystem transformation on a planet where human impacts are pervasive. There is a real opportunity to enable society to cope with transformed ecosystems by changing governance, but this is notoriously difficult. Aimed at anyone involved in these conversations (be those researchers, practitioners, decision makers or students) Governing the Anthropocene brings together diffuse research exploring how to confront institutional change and ecological transformation in different contexts, and provides insight into how to translate governance concepts into productive pathways forward.
This is a core strand of my research, i.e. investigating where governance is and is not fit for making decisions about how to deal with this unprecedented era of environmental change, both at present and into the future. I am particularly interested in making a practical contribution to policy and the practices that help organisations and communities deal with the ecological and social challenges of the Anthropocene, and in helping to modernise the way society approaches ecosystem management.
As part of this I also look at governance and wildfires. I am interested in how current approaches affect social and ecological resilience, and so I am particularly interested in the intersection between climate, biodiversity, and risk reduction to understand how policies can be better integrated, more evidence-based, and more effectively confront multiple social and ecological challenges. I currently focus on Australia, but have an interest in this topic in other countries. I undertake further resilience research with respect to coastal governance, where I work with colleagues in Australia to understand how resilience thinking might contribute to more effective governance and management responses.
I am interested in the use of Nature-Based Solutions to address environmental and social challenges, particularly with respect to climate change, biodiversity loss, and effective participatory planning and environmental governance. The URBAN GreenUP project aims to contribute to the mitigation of climate change risks in cities, increase the resilience to climate change effects, address water management challenges (e.g. flooding, water quality), improve air quality, and confront social and economic challenges in urban areas. The project will raise awareness about the benefits of re-naturing cities and making cities more sustainable places, and is testing the effect of innovative Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) on the core challenges identified in the Eklipse framework, including climate change, green space management, air quality, social justice and community cohesion, economic benefits, and urban regeneration. I am the Principal Investigator for University of Liverpool on this project, which is led by the Liverpool City Council and in partnership with Mersey Forest.
NBS are defined by the IUCN as actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems, that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits. A very new term that is less than 2 decades old, it flows out of the concept of ecosystem services and the intention to link biodiversity conservation with goals for climate adaptation and resilience, and the concept has since expanded to embrace sustainable development goals.
URBAN GreenUP is a project funded under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. Fundamentally the project is about testing how NBS can be implemented in very different urban contexts, and whether they make a measurable impacts across a wide range of indicators in the challenge areas mentioned above. Under the coordination of CARTIF Technology Centre, 25 partners from 9 countries are working together to implement NBS in the three leading cities of Valladolid (Spain), Liverpool (UK) and Izmir (Turkey). We are also developing a transferable methodology for diagnosing, designing, and implementing NBS; and the project involves replication in other cities in Europe, Latin America and Asia.Urban GreenUP website
Beyond Urban GreenUP, I am interested in how NBS might provide an innovative way of thinking about conserving biodiversity and climate change adaptation and mitigation in wilderness and semi-natural landscapes, as well as with respect to novel ecosystems. I believe these are spaces where the biggest impact can be made, as NBS are meant to be applied at a landscape scale, which is often not possible in urban areas. NBS might provide a way of re-framing biodiversity conservation and ecological restoration objectives that could sit alongside "conventional" approaches to provide multiple benefits, especially in highly modified ecosystems and multi-functional landscapes where restoration to 'ideal' historical baselines is often not possible or requires more resources than are available.
GroundsWell: Community-engaged and Data-informed Systems Transformation of Urban Green and Blue Space for Population Health
MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL (MRC)
October 2021 - September 2026
URBAN GreenUP - New Strategy for Re-Naturing Cities through Nature-Based Solutions
June 2017 - May 2022