Governance for Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation (Dec 2016 - Nov 2017)

Lead academic:

Academic partners:

  • Dr Kate Schreckenberg, Faculty of Engineering &the Environment, University of Southampton
  • Dr Constance McDermott, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
  • Professor Mark Huxham, Life Sciences, Edinburgh Napier University

Non-academic partners:

  • Dr Rebecca Asare, Nature Conservation Research Centre


  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
  • Department for International Development (DFID)
  • Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA)


The Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) programme had been funding research since 2007 and, as it prepared to close, it funded a series of projects to synthesize findings and lessons from the projects it has funded over the years. The ‘Governance for Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation’ project focused on learning how governance had been investigated and understood by a diversity of ESPA projects, and what had been learnt about governance arrangements and outcomes for ecosystem health and poverty alleviation.

Governance matters for both the condition of natural resources and for who benefits. If the governance arrangements are ineffective and unfair, or produce unsustainable and unfair outcomes, then the potential for sustainable management and poverty alleviation is limited. Governance involves decision-making over who can extract products from renewable natural resources, how much and what they can take, from where and when.

The project generated understanding and lessons of significance for the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in relation to their call for the eradication of poverty, the reduction of inequality, and the integration of ecosystem and biodiversity strategies into development processes.

Project aims

The aims of this project were to synthesise the lessons on governance in relation to ecosystem services and poverty alleviation and drew out key findings of broad international relevance to researchers, policy-makers and practitioners. The project involved:

  1. Synthesis of the findings of ESPA research on how governance affects the health, availability and accessibility of ecosystem services and the distribution and impact of their benefits to poor people and societies.
  2. Identifying the analytical frameworks and methodological approaches used by ESPA and related research to generate knowledge on governance structures, processes and outcomes in relation to ecosystem services and poverty alleviation.
  3. Informing the SDGs and related UK and international objectives on how governance influences ecosystem health and the types, distribution and scale of benefits from ecosystem services for poor people.
  4. Identifying contributions to knowledge and practice concerning the governance of ecosystems and the distribution and impact of their benefits.
  5. Identifying how understanding and impact in relation to the governance of ecosystems could be advanced through further research, policy and changes in practice.


Nunan, F., M. Menton, C. McDermott and K. Schreckenberg (2018) ‘Governing for ecosystem health and human wellbeing’, in Schreckenberg, K., G. Mace and M. Poudyal (eds) Ecosystem services for poverty alleviation: trade-offs and governance. London:Routledge. 

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