Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA)

Three organisations - NERC (Natural Environment Research Council), the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (DfID) - have joined forces for a multi-disciplinary £40·5m research programme on Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA). The ESPA programme was launched as part of the Living With Environmental Change partnership.

ESPA aims to deliver high quality and cutting-edge research that will deliver improved understanding of how ecosystems function, the services they provide, the full value of these services, and their potential role in achieving sustainable poverty reduction. ESPA research will provide the evidence and tools to enable decision makers and end users to manage ecosystems sustainably and in a way that contributes to poverty reduction.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment showed that the loss of services from ecosystems (for example deforestation, soil degradation, water purification) is a significant barrier to reducing poverty, hunger and disease. Tackling this set of problems requires a combination of environmental science, ecological economics and political economy. NERC, the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Department for International Development (DfID) have joined forces in the Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) initiative to deliver high quality and cutting-edge research that will improve our understanding of ecosystems in terms of the services they provide for poverty reduction and inclusive growth processes. The Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation programme aims to:

  • create a strong research and evidence base on the interface between ecosystem services, their dynamics and management, human use and pathways to sustainable poverty reduction.
  • develop innovative, interdisciplinary research and methodologies, delivering tools and approaches that enable the simulation and prediction of socio-ecological responses to multiple drivers.
  • ensure high uptake of research outputs and synthesis by early and on-going engagement and communication with policy makers, practitioners and decision makers.
  • enhance capacity of southern researchers to conduct, lead and use/communicate high quality ESPA-type interdisciplinary research, including through effective north-south and south-south research partnerships.

A number of research themes were identified that represented common findings of the situation analyses. These themes describe some of the key components of the ESPA research landscape:

  • Water: impacts of climate variability and other changes on ecosystem services that underpin the water cycle and water security.
  • Health: ecosystem services, disease ecology and human well-being.
  • Forests: forests, land use change and ecosystem services.
  • Biodiversity: biodiversity and ecosystem services - ensuring a sustainable flow of goods and services to enhance human well-being.
  • Coasts: strengthening the management of coastal ecosystems to support sustained ecosystem service delivery for reduced poverty and vulnerability in coastal zones.
  • Political Economy: the political economy needed for sustainable management of ecosystem services for poverty reduction and sustainable growth.
January 2009
January 2016

Dominique Butt
Phone: +44 (0)1793 411751

Caroline Culshaw
Phone: +44 (0) 1793 442597

Sophie Comer
Phone: 01793 442635

ESPA Directorate:

About us

The Poverty and Conservation Learning Group is an international network of organisations that promotes learning on the linkages between biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction.

More about us

IIED The Poverty and Conservation Learning Group is a project coordinated by IIED.

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This website has received funding from UK aid and the Arcus Foundation. The views expressed on this site do not necessarily reflect the views of these organisations.

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