Ecosystem services and resilience

Rice fields in the Mekong. Credit: IWMI/M.McCartney
Rice fields in the Mekong. Credit: IWMI/M.McCartney

The challenge

In the past, agriculture was considered the big menace to ecosystems, responsible for deforestation, water pollution and degrading natural resources. At times this has pitted those concerned with feeding people and alleviating poverty against those who want to preserve ‘natural’ ecosystems. Today, we recognize that agricultural ecosystems are the world’s largest ecosystem and play a central role in ensuring both human health and environmental health. Agriculture is dependent on ecosystems to provide healthy diets for a growing global population; on the flip side, decisions we make regarding how to manage agricultural landscapes can transform their impact on the environment and contribute to environmental conservation and restoration.

Healthy, resilient socio-ecosystems can sustainably increase food security and alleviate poverty. Protecting landscapes while also allowing farmers and industries to harness the benefits they provide will require carefully considered management and investment.

About our work

The Ecosystem Services and Resilience cross-cutting theme seeks to understand how services and benefits from ecosystems can be sustainably harnessed for food production and livelihood improvement.

The theme is working to establish a network of researchers that can develop, adapt and use cutting-edge tools to guide decisions on agricultural intensification and landscape management of biodiversity, soils and water. The theme aims to encourage a greater focus, from a wide range of scientists, on developing and proving solutions whereby the environment’s contribution to sustainably increasing food production is valued and put to use.

WLE and its partners work with decision makers in developing countries and globally to consider ecosystems and the benefits they provide when investing in food and energy production as an essential strategy to achieving poverty alleviation and food security. This objective is central to all of WLE’s research themes.

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