Climate Change and Rural Livelihoods in Ghana: the impacts, adaptations and barriers

Climate change poses considerable threats to socioeconomic development and ecological systems across Africa. This is particularly critical for smallholder farming communities in dryland agroecosystems where climate change interact with non-climatic stressors and shocks to exacerbate the vulnerability of rural livelihoods. Ghana is already suffering from significant climate change impacts and is projected to experience increased temperatures and erratic rainfall patterns in the coming years and decades. This threatens the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals, especially those relating to poverty reduction (SDG 1), food security (SDG 2) and climate action (SDG 13).

This talk focuses on providing an understanding of the adverse impacts of climate change and variability on rural livelihoods in northern Ghana and how these perpetuate existing vulnerability among rural households and communities. Drawing on personal research from across rural Ghana, this talk spotlights the various practices employed by rural communities to moderate the adverse impacts of climate risks. The talk also highlights the key barriers confronting rural communities in their attempt to address the impacts of climate change. The talk concludes by proposing a number of recommendations such as increased use of climate services, climate-smart agriculture interventions and changing cropping choices, aimed at making rural livelihoods in northern Ghana more resilient in the face of climate change and variability.

Biography
Prof. Philip Antwi-Agyei is the Director of the Office of Grants and Research at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana. Philip is a former Commonwealth Scholar, who obtained his PhD from the University of Leeds, United Kingdom in 2013. Philip is an interdisciplinary climate change scientist whose research involves developing innovative multi-scale methodologies for assessing vulnerability and adaptations to climate change across the local, regional and national scales. Specifically, his research uses spatial databases, ecological studies and field-based participatory approaches aimed at broadening understanding of how climate change and variability affect food security and livelihoods.

Prof. Antwi-Agyei was a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5 oC, and a Contributing Author on the Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC. He has consulted for leading international organisations including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP, Accra), the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Canada, and Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency, to mention but a few. Philip developed the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Framework for Ghana and the National Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan for the Infrastructure Sector (Water, Energy, and Transport Sectors). Prof. Antwi-Agyei was the Consultant for the adaptation component of Ghana’s Updated Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Climate Agreement.

Prof. Antwi-Agyei is a recipient of several prestigious international grants including the International Foundation for Science (2010–2013), Climate Impacts Research Capacity and Leadership Enhancement Fellowship (2015–2016) funded by the UK’s Department for International Development, Innovation Grant from the London School of Economics and University of Leeds, United Kingdom (2016–2018), and Science for Weather Information and Forecasting Techniques (2016–2021) funded by the Global Challenge Research Fund. He has also won grants under the Climate Research for Development (2019–2021), an initiative of the African Climate Policy Centre in partnership with the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development. Philip was a Fellow under the Future Leaders–Africa Independent Research (FLAIR) (2020–2022) and Collaboration Grants (2021–2022) funded by the Royal Society, London.

He has published extensively in reputable international peer reviewed journals on climate change issues and presented his research outputs in several international conferences and workshops. Philip serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Climate and Development (published by Taylor and Francis). He also serves on the Editorial Board of Journal of Environmental Policy and Governance and is a regular reviewer for several leading high impact factor journals on climate change related matters.

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and Biodiversity Network are interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery/Biodiversity Network, or its researchers.

Restoration Social Science: Understanding how and why people restore landscapes, and what the impacts of that restoration is on human well being.

Restoration is emerging as a global priority, as exemplified in the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, the Bonn Challenge to restore 350 Mha by 2030, and a wide variety of regional, national, and private efforts. As described in these documents, restoration is primarily conceived as an ecological process, in which ecosystems are restored to a more functional or desirable state through ecological processes, and there is a well developed science of restoration ecology to inform these efforts. However most restoration seeks to undo damage to ecosystems caused by people, most restoration efforts involve people doing things, and restoration is often sold as being beneficial to people. Thus a social science of restoration is needed to make sure restoration achieves its goals, however, no such collected body of knowledge exists.

In this talk I will propose 3 key questions which restoration social science must answer: (1) What are the impacts of restoration on people? (2) How do human actions influence restoration outcomes? (3) Why has restoration emerged as a global priority now? I will provide preliminary answers to these questions which draw on my field research in India. These results suggest that the outcomes of restoration depend on who makes decisions about the restoration program, and as such can vary from beneficial to harmful to people. They also suggest that a major impetus for the popularity of restoration today is that restoration can be an effective way to greenwash environmentally harmful activities.

Biography
Forrest Fleischman is an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Department of Forest Resources, and a visiting researcher at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB). His research examines the intersection of scientific knowledge, government expertise, and civic engagement in policy-making and implementation, as well as the outcomes of resulting policies, particularly in human-created ecosystems, such as restored, planted, and urban forests.

 

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and Biodiversity Network are interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery/Biodiversity Network, or its researchers.

Bending the curves – balancing nature, economy and society, from the bottom up

Abstract: Bending the curve of biodiversity decline, ie. halting and reversing loss, has been adopted as the mission for the Global Biodiversity Framework. While conservation and restoration are necessary to achieve this, they are not sufficient and this talk focuses on the two sets of actions that need far greater attention – a) bending and reversing the drivers of biodiversity decline, which requires primary focus on indirect drivers, in particular overconsumption, and b) redressing equity imbalances. Both entail specific responsibilities and actions, by those who over-consume, and for those who under-consume. Focusing on healthy and sufficient nature at square kilometre scales provides a direct approach to address these issues, providing tangible opportunities to revert financial capital into natural capital to nature, economy and society for a sustainable future.

Biography – David Obura chairs the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), is on the Earth Commission and is a Founding Director of the coral reef research and conservation organization CORDIO East Africa. With 30 years of experience addressing ecological and climatic challenges in Africa and tropical coastal regions, he is developing a new focus on sustainability and equity, linking challenges and solutions from local to global scales, and working with diverse teams to identify pathways to a safe and just world for present and future generations.

AmazonFlux: disentangling biodiversity-ecosystem function relationship through an energy flux perspective

Human-made disturbances have triggered multiple changes in biodiversity, with unexpected consequences for ecosystem functioning. Yet, we still miss a mechanistic comprehension of the relationship between biodiversity change and ecosystem function. Considering that species’ response to disturbances will depend on, or are mediated by, their interaction with other species, this information gap might lead to erroneous projections of how human-induced changes impact biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. By merging biodiversity models and energy flux approach we can integrate biotic and abiotic factors into assessing ecosystem functions at macroecological scales. After a collaborative work to compile an extensive biodiversity dataset of camera trap information for the Amazon forest (Amazonia Camtrap), I aim to disentangle the impact of different forest disturbances on bird and mammal communities and use an energy flux approach to investigate how these disturbances and changes in biodiversity affect ecosystem functions.

Biography

I am a Brazilian ecologist working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Synthesis Centre for Biodiversity Sciences (sDiv), iDiv. My current research focuses on understanding how forest disturbances, associated with biodiversity changes, affect ecosystem functions in animal communities across the Amazon forest.

Prior to joining sDiv, I completed my PhD in 2023 in the Theory in Biodiversity group at iDiv where I proposed a framework based on ecological energetics to link biodiversity-ecosystem functions and nature’s contributions to people across macroecological scales, while accounting for ecological interactions between species. In 2016, I obtained my MSc from the National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA) in Manaus, Brazil, where I specialized in ecology and started my passion for the Amazon forest.

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery is interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery or its researchers.

Soil Ecology from the microbe’s eye view

Abstract:
Soil is arguably the most complicated biomaterial on the planet. It is the largest terrestrial carbon sink, and the most species rich habitat on earth. Microorganisms driving biogeochemical cycles live and interact in the soil’s intricate pore space labyrinth, but they difficult to study in realistic settings because of its opaqueness. We recently developed microfluidic model systems that simulate the spatial microstructure of soil microbial habitats in a transparent material, which we call Soil Chips. They allow us to study the impact of soil physical microstructures on microbes, microbial behavior and realistic microbial interactions, live and at the scale of their cells.

Using microbial model strains, we could show the partly opposing influence of the pore space geometry on the growth and degradation activity of the two microbial groups bacteria and fungi in synthetic communities. Different fungi, including litter decomposers and mycorrhizal, showed contrasting space exploring strategies when studied at their hyphal level. Inoculating the chips with soil brings a large proportion of the natural microbial community into our chips to study natural communities including their complex food webs, and self-organizing interactions with soil minerals in early aggregation processes. Chemical imaging of microbe-mineral interactions at nanoscale at synchrotrons reveal aggregate development and microbial gluing agents.

The soil chips enable us to study the influence of trophic interactions such as the presence of predators on bacterial and fungal nutrient cycling, and various predation strategies of protists otherwise difficult to culture. Beyond the scientific potential, the chips can also bring soils closer to people aiming to make more to appreciate their beauty and increase engagement in soil health conservation.

Biography:
Edith is a Senior Lecturer/Assoc Professor in Soil Microbial Ecology at Lund University. Her research focusses on microbial processes that drive the nutrient cycles in soils and are the base for healthy soil functions, such as its enormous carbon storage. She has developed so-called soil chips, microfluidic micromodels that mimic soil pore space structure to study organisms and processes embedded in their spatial settings. Those enable the study of microbial processes and interactions at cellular scale, including organic matter degradation and physical occlusion, trophic networks and microbial behavior.

With a strong background in fungal and mycorrhizal ecology, she has recently been broadening her projects to complex communities also including the often-overlooked protist. With help of imaging from the soil chips she also wishes to increase awareness of the fragile ecosystem with its intricate biodiversity. She leads the branch for climate and C-cycle science of the Swedish strategic research environment BECC, the Section Soil Biology at the European Geosciences Union and a recent initiative for soil microbe outreach (“soilwatching”).

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and Biodiversity Network are interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery/Biodiversity Network, or its researchers.

Building collaborations with Indigenous and Local Communities using Extreme Citizen Science

This talk will describe the work of the Extreme Citizen Science Research Group designing and testing solutions for building effective collaborations with Indigenous People and local communities in the context of local conservation initiatives, extractive industry, human rights abuses, or to address the impacts of climate and environmental change on local livelihoods.

Jerome Lewis works with BaYaka forest hunter-gatherers in Congo-Brazzaville since 1993 on egalitarianism and the role of ritual, music and dance in society. Jerome’s applied research supports forest people to secure their land and better represent themselves to outsiders using new technologies (Extreme Citizen Science). He is director of the Centre for the Anthropology of Sustainability, and co-founder of Flourishing Diversity.

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and Biodiversity Network is interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery or its researchers.

Captured sunshine: what can an energetic view of life on Earth tell us about nature decline and recovery?

The biosphere was first described as “a planetary membrane for capturing, storing and transforming solar energy” (Vernadsky, 1926). Every living organism and organism function in the biosphere is united, and can be compared, by the cascade of captured sunshine that powers it. But beyond powerful imagery, can an energetics approach to ecosystems yield a practical contribution to understanding how increasing human pressure is altering ecological function, and be a tool for assessing effectiveness of nature recovery?

This talk explores this potential with a focus on plants, birds and mammals, the best documented taxonomic groups, in the context of terrestrial ecosystems. I draw on examples from Wytham Woods, intact and logged tropical forests in Borneo, and a broad regional examination of sub-Saharan Africa. An energetic approach to understanding life an earth can yield some surprising and provocative insights into our changing biosphere.

Biography:

Yadvinder Malhi CBE FRS is Professor of Ecosystem Science at the Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment, and Jackson Senior Research Fellow at Oriel College.

Professor Malhi explores the functioning of the biosphere and its interactions with global change, including climate change. He has a particular fascination with and love for tropical forests, though he has recently been spotted in ecosystems ranging from savannas, the Arctic, tropical coral reefs and Oxfordshire’s woodlands and floodplain meadows.

He looks at how natural ecosystems may be shifting in response to global atmospheric change, and how protecting or restoring natural ecosystems can help tackle climate change, and help adaptation to the consequences of climate change.

His team at the Environmental Change Institute is known for collecting intensive field data from fascinating but sometimes tough and remote forests. They have ongoing programmes of research in Asia, Africa, the Amazon and Andes regions, and Oxford’s own Wytham Woods. A new recent focus has been on nature recovery and biodiversity restoration in the UK.

While addressing fundamental questions about ecosystem function and dynamics, his research findings are significant for conservation and adaptation to climate change. He is a Trustee of the Natural History Museum of London, President-Elect of the British Ecological Society, chairs a number of programmes on biodiversity at the Royal Society, and is a scientific advisor on nature restoration for the UK government and the government of Scotland.

He leads an active Ecosystem Dynamics research lab focussing on forest vegetation-atmosphere interactions, employing field studies, satellite remote sensing and ecosystem modelling.

Research:
The broad scope of my research interests is the impact of global change on the ecology, structure and composition of terrestrial ecosystems, and in particular temperate and tropical forests, though recently I have been spotted a few times in the Antarctic and Arctic … This research addresses fundamental questions about ecosystem function and dynamics, whilst at the same time providing outputs of direct relevance for conservation and adaptation to climate change. We apply a range of techniques including field physiological studies, large-scale and long-term ecological monitoring, social sciences methods, satellite remote-sensing and GIS, ecosystem modelling, and micrometeorological techniques.

My team has a reputation in collecting intensive field data from fascinating but sometimes tough and remote forests, and linking these data to models and satellite data to address global issues surrounding tropical forests.

My university post is supported by the Jackson Foundation, and our global research is funded by grants from the European Research Council, the Natural Environment Research Council, and others.

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery is interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery or its researchers.

 

Embracing complexity to understand and predict the consequences of environmental changes on biodiversity.

In the past two decades, there has been a significant increase in studies using models to understand and predict the impact of environmental changes on biodiversity.

Typically, these studies begin by examining the relationship between species distributions and environmental variables, based on the assumption that the environment determines the limits of tolerance for species survival. As a result, alterations in environmental conditions are expected to lead to shifts in species distributions. However, a major shortcoming of existing models is their singular focus on individual species. Although these models can be applied to thousands of species at once, they often treat each species as an independent entity, reacting in isolation to environmental changes. This approach neglects the complex dynamics within ecological communities, where collective species responses to environmental changes are not merely the sum of individual responses. While incremental improvements to existing models are possible, progress necessitates the development of models that capture the responses of entire communities to environmental change. I suggest a promising direction would be to shift from the traditional environmental-limiting niche theory, which is applicable to individual species, to a resource-limiting niche theory. This approach considers the impact of the environment on the coexistence of multiple species within communities, providing a more comprehensive understanding of ecological dynamics.

Bio
Miguel B. Araújo is globally recognized as a leading expert in the study of the effects of climate change on biodiversity. His research has been instrumental in developing current best practices for predicting changes in biodiversity over time and assessing the broader impact of human activities on the natural world. His methodological innovations have inspired thousands of scientists, and his evaluations of climate change effects on biodiversity have significantly influenced public policies at various scales, from local to global.

Araújo’s scientific achievements are evidenced by his substantial publication record of approximately 300 publications, his consistent recognition as a ‘highly cited’ researcher by Thomson Reuters since 2014, his mentorship of nearly 80 researchers and postgraduate students, and his success in securing over €80 million in research funding.

Prof. Araújo has received several prestigious awards, highlighting his contributions to ecological research and biodiversity. These include the European Ecological Federation Ernst Haeckel Prize (2019) for senior scientists advancing European ecological research, the Pessoa Prize (2018) recognizing significant contributions in arts, literature, or science, the Rey Jaime I Prize (2016) awarded by the King of Spain for contributions to improving the ecological environment, the International Biogeography Society MacArthur & Wilson Award (2013) for notable contributions to biogeography, and the GBIF Ebbe Nielsen Prize (2013) for innovative work in biosystematics and biodiversity informatics.

He has also been elected to the Lisbon Academy of Sciences and appointed as an honorary member of the College of Biologists in Portugal, an honor unprecedented for a non-biologist. Since 2014, Prof. Araújo has served as the Editor-in-Chief of “Ecography”. He is the Chair of the Scientific Council for Natural Sciences at the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology, a member of the Portuguese Council for the Environment and Sustainability, the Vice-Chair of the Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity’s Jury (supporting Angela Merkel as Chair), and a regular member of several evaluation panels, including those for the BBVA Foundation, ERC, and NATO Science for Peace and Security ISEG.

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery and Biodiversity Network are interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery/Biodiversity Network, or its researchers.

Recovery of degraded coastal ecosystems requires so much more than protection – how restoration and conservation go hand-in-hand

Abstract

As the world races toward environmental targets, including the 2030 targets in CBD’s Kumming Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, the negotiated goals of the UNFCC COP 28, the objectives of the BBNJ Agreement, and even the largely ignored SDGs, the enormous emphasis on protection of intact nature and nature-based solutions belies the realities. Intact ecosystems are few, and piecemeal protection of them will never get us to where we need to be. This is especially the case in marine and coastal ecosystems, which are highly connected across wide geographies and which are suffering the death of a thousand cuts. A strategic approach to identifying priority areas for restoration – and investing in the problem-scoping necessary to know how to restore them, is our only option for enhancing ecosystem resilience. With examples from the insular Caribbean, I contrast the conventional conservation paradigm with an ocean health-oriented restoration approach and speak to lessons learned with potential applications in many other biomes.

Bio

Dr. Tundi Agardy is the founder of Sound Seas, a Washington DC-based group working at the nexus of science and policy to advance marine conservation around the globe. She also directs the Marine Ecosystem Services (MARES) Program of Forest Trends, which specializes in launching innovative financing for marine management. Tundi has published widely on MSP and related topics, including the 2010 book Ocean Zoning: Making Management More Effective.

The Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery is interested in promoting a wide variety of views and opinions on nature recovery from researchers and practitioners.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this lecture are those of the author alone, they do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Leverhulme Centre for Nature Recovery or its researchers.