Social and ecological consequences of land use intensification in African woodlands

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OCTF online seminar (via Zoom) followed by Q&A – all welcome

The received wisdom of a positive link between biodiverse, intact forest landscapes and human wellbeing is used to justify large-scale forest restoration and underpins arguments about how forests can contribute to the SDGs. However, this assumption is largely untested and rarely socially disaggregated, including in southern Africa. Here we use remote sensing, household surveys and ecological methods to present an analysis of the impacts of land use change in 30 villages in the southern African woodlands, showing that: a) there is no evidence that household multidimensional wellbeing or natural resource use decreases as landscapes are deforested and “degraded”; b) this pattern holds true even among the poorest, who might be expected to be most dependent on the wild, commons or open access, resources that are lost; c) land-use change is causing substantial carbon and biodiversity losses. This casts doubt on simple win-win characterisations of how conservation and restoration will support poverty alleviation and improved livelihoods, such as those used by the Bonn Challenge. Instead, conservationists will need to engage with the realities of a just transition of the informal energy and agricultural sectors in the region.

Casey is a Reader in the School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, where he gained his PhD in 2009. His main research topics include:

Deforestation and forest degradation, with a particular emphasis on new methods to quantify degradation and its drivers
Miombo woodland ecology, particularly the role of fire
Land use change in woodlands and savannahs, particularly in SE Asia and Africa
The socio-ecological outcomes of land use intensification
The regeneration of native woodlands in Scotland and the effect this has on ecosystem services
The carbon cycle of tropical savannas and dry forests
Tree allometry and biomass estimation