Projects

My research projects are generally focused on the analysis of incentive-based biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, including offsetting approaches, payments for ecosystem services, and REDD+, with fieldwork in Mexico, Belize and Tanzania. I have also investigated the governance and impacts of bioenergy options, including flex crops like soy or oil palm. Each of these projects are described below and, for more information, you can look into the specifics of each project’s website.

Land-use intensification in forest-agriculture frontier landscapes (2016-2017)

This is a one-year knowledge synthesis project funded by the UK’s Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation programme and led by Professor Adrian Martin (University of East Anglia). We aim to synthesise existing knowledge on how land-use intensification shapes the changing trade-offs between land use, ecosystem services and poverty alleviation, with specific emphasis on forest-agriculture frontiers in the global South. These are areas often characterized by mosaic landscapes in transition from subsistence to cash-cropping economics, from longer to shorter fallows, and from lower to higher levels of purchased inputs. These rapidly changing social-ecological systems are also places where poverty alleviation and environmental conservation are priority objectives. In spite of this, we know very little about the trends and patterns of such intensification processes, the contexts in which they take shape, or how to improve related policies so that intensification results in positive environmental and well being effects.

Conflict and cooperation over REDD+ in Mexico, Nepal and Vietnam (2014-2017)

This project examines the early development of REDD+ policy and REDD+ pilots in the above mentioned countries. The project starts from the premise that REDD+ may aggravate the protracted conflicts characterizing forestry in the global South or cause new ones in the absence of a conflict-sensitive approach. Yet, the changes in cross-scale governance brought about by REDD+ may also provide unprecedented opportunities for transforming existing conflicts and promoting cooperation. The project aims to produce recommendations on conflict-sensitive national safeguards processes for decision makers and provide relevant training to local communities, grassroots organizations, NGOs, government and project developers. By involving national institutions as equal partners, the project hopes to contribute to capacity development with regards to the ability to investigate, provide advice and implement tools for conflict-sensitive REDD+ policy and practice.

Framing Debates about Poverty Reduction and Ecosystem Services (2015-2016)

This project is funded by the UK’s Ecosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation programme. It is led by Daniel Brockington (University of Sheffield) and involves also Bill Adams and Bhaskar Vira (University of Cambridge), myself and a post-doctoral researcher. The project aims to set the agenda of research into poverty reduction and ecosystem services over the next ten years. We will try to do so through two means. In the first instant we will map and conceptualise the key disputes and areas of agreement that animate current debates in this field. This will help us distinguish between the different sorts of disagreement (and agreement) that exist between different epistemic communities, whether  by theoretical, moral, conceptual or empirical. The nature of these disagreements is important because it determines the sort of work which is required to resolve current disputes (if they are resolvable) and so advance current understanding.

The roll-out of market-based environmental management in the European Union (2015-2017)

This is a joint research project between the University of Indiana, the University of Wisconsin and ICTA-UAB, funded by the National Science Foundation of the USA. It analyses the development of biodiversity offsetting policies in the EU, with a particular focus on Germany, Spain and the UK. The project aims to shed light on how EU policy-makers, ecological entrepreneurs, scientists, and activists understand and use  the science underlying mitigation and offset banking to pursue their own agendas, and to what extent do the geographic variegations in national and sub-national contexts lead to policies, metrics, and accounting practices that are distinct from each other and from the US model. The project is expected to deliver important insights for the future of the EU’s no-net loss policy.

A Political Ecology of Land-Use Change (2010-2015)

This project finances the core of my research. It is supported by a “Ramón y Cajal” senior research fellowship of the Spanish government and a Marie Curie Career Integration Grant of the European Research Agency. It focuses on the analysis of two related land-use transformations in developing countries: on the one hand, the commodification of ecosystem services through carbon and biodiversity offset schemes and, on the other, land grabbing processes for agrofuel crops expansion, namely soybean and oil palm plantations. The project involves two PhD candidates.

Sustainable forest management and REDD+ in Tanzania (2010-2014)

The NGO Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative (www.mpingoconservation.org) promotes sustainable forest management in the Kilwa district, southern Tanzania, since 2004. With support from the Norwegian government, it has been working with a team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh, the University of East Anglia, the UAB, and other organisations like Fauna and Flora International and the Voluntary Carbon Standard to design a pilot REDD+ project. Together with a post-doctoral researcher and the UEA team we contributed to develop socio-economic and forest governance baselines in selected communities and to test monitoring systems.

Analysing Community-Based Strategies for Biological and Cultural Conservation (2012-2014)

This project was financed by the EU 7th Research Framework  and it aimed to identify the conditions and principles of successful biodiversity conservation in selected rural communities of Mexico, Brazil and Bolivia. The project was coordinated by BOKU, Austria, and involved key partners in host countries, including academic and grassroots organisations. The UAB team coordinated Work Package 5, involving a post-doctoral researcher, a PhD candidate and myself. We were responsible for analysing the role of conservation strategies in reducing or enhancing households’ vulnerability to environmental change, including climate variability and hazards.

Integrating valuation, markets and policies for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services (2012-2015)

This project is funded by the European programme BIODIVERSA and it involves six European institutions. It aims to examine the emergence of market-based instruments for biodiversity conservation. The UAB team, which includes one post-doctoral researcher, one PhD candidate and myself, co-coordinates Work Package 2 and contributes to the analysis of 3 case studies of payments for ecosystem services located in Europe (Germany and Belgium), 4 cases in Latin America (Mexico, Nicaragua and Guatemala), and 2 cases in Asia (Cambodia and Indonesia).

The Clean Development Mechanism in South Africa (2008-2010)

This project was funded by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, UK. It analysed the contribution of a solar thermal energy CDM project to socio-economic well-being in a deprived township of Cape Town, South Africa, including baseline and follow-up surveys across hundreds of randomly selected households.

Institutional Design and Effectiveness of Mexico’s Programme of Payments for Ecosystem Services (2006-2007)

PES programs have proliferated in Latin America over the last decade. The Mexican government established in 2004 a program to reward farmers for the development of carbon sequestration reforestation projects, biodiversity conservation projects and agroforestry systems. The program has evolved over the years and it is now part of a wider strategic forest development program known as ProÁrbol. This research was funded by the British Academy of Sciences and it investigated whether the carbon forestry program was achieving its expected environmental and social goals. The results of this work contributed to re-design the program procedures and informed the development of similar schemes in the region.

Exploring Sustainable Development in the Clean Development Mechanism and Carbon Forestry Projects (2001-2010)

This research was funded by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, UK, and contributed to finance my PhD dissertation and most of my early post-doctoral work. Results from research conducted in Mexico, Belize and related writing with colleagues from a number of academic and grassroots organisations have helped to document the benefits and costs of CDM and carbon forestry offset projects for rural livelihoods, as well as to highlight the critical role that property rights and access relations play in the procedural and distributive outcomes of these initiatives.

All the publications derived from these projects can be found in the publications section, which is updated as new data are analysed and articles become published.

In addition to the currently ongoing projects, I supervise three additional PhD candidates working in the area of REDD+ policy-making, inland fisheries’ co-management, and the interplay between agrarian intensification (through irrigation) and rural vulnerability.