Social ecological mapping for nature recovery

This work will be conducted in both the UK and Ghanaian case study landscapes. It will include literature review, the development of conceptual frameworks for the integration of the social dimensions of land use into ecological maps, and the piloting of new forms of inclusive social ecological mapping.

The core purpose of the project is to ‘get social issues on the map’ of nature recovery. Making social issues visible is critical to:

  • better understand the drivers of land use and nature recovery, and
  • enable the integration of social values and local participation into land use mapping, monitoring and priority-setting for land use policy and practice.

Background/rationale

The ecological mapping of nature recovery to meet ecological goals and targets is advancing at a rapid pace, enabled by advances in remote sensing and other monitoring technologies and incentivized by the promise of payments for ecosystem service and other financial mechanisms. A strong focus of this work has been on assessing changes in tree cover to address deforestation in the tropics and efforts at reforestation and afforestation in the Northern hemisphere. More recently, advances in sensor technologies and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have enabled more nuanced analysis of vegetative change, ‘ecosystem health’, biodiversity and other biophysical variables.

However this ecological data alone tells us little about the social dynamics that shape these land use patterns. Furthermore, the technologies and analyses used are often ‘expert-driven’ and inaccessible and/or inscrutable to the communities living within these mapped landscapes. This project will address these challenges by exploring the opportunities and risks of 1) integrating social and ecological data and 2) combining scientific and participatory approaches that recognize local and traditional knowledge.