Borders and boundaries in conservation

The prospect of a physical wall being built between the US and Mexico has prompted a great deal of coverage on the possible implications for wildlife and conservation (aside from what such a thing might mean for people). Just out in BioScience is this thought provoking article “Border walls and biodiversity: new barriers, new horizons” by Lesley Evans Ogden which features ideas from the paper I wrote with Niels Strange in Trends in Ecology and Evolution in 2015 where we discussed the role that socio-political borders and boundaries can play in conservation. You’ll spot quotes from both me and Niels in the BioScience piece!

Martin Dallimer and Niels Strange (2015) Why socio-political borders and boundaries matter in conservation. Trends in Ecology and Evolution; 30: 132-139.

Lesley Evans Ogden (2017) Border Walls and Biodiversity: New barriers, new horizons. BioScience; 67: 498-505

Community based sustainable land management in India

I’ve just come back from my first visit to India. Together with Lindsay Stringer, we were there as part of a GIZ-funded project in order to exchange experiences, based on our work in Kenya, with colleagues working for ICRISAT-India who are applying the Economics of Land Degradation 6+1 approach across a couple of Indian states (Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh). We spent some time with them in Pune, at the offices of the inspiring NGO WOTR (Watershed Organisation Trust), before visiting a couple of rural locations where community watershed management ideas are being applied in order to improve how sustainably land is managed in these regions where rainfall is very seasonal, and increasingly unpredictable. We’ll continue working with ICRISAT-India as they complete there analyses through to the end of the year.


Tree-planting programmes on the upper slopes of the catchment have resulted in improved soil fertility and water availability downstream.


Water accounting is carried out transparently at the community level, with facilitation and support from WOTR.


ICRISAT-India and Leeds teams meet farmers and community representatives in Bhalwani

The value of land

The Economics of Land Degradation initiative recently put together a short video explaining the results of our cost-benefit analysis of sustainable land management practices for smallholder farmers in western Kenya. The video does a great job of introducing the problems facing farmers in western Kenya, and neatly summarises our key findings. For individual farmers, it is the simplest practices (that farmers already do), such as intercropping and manure application, that offer the quickest and highest return on their investments. If policy makers want to encourage farmers to carry out sustainable land management practices, such as agroforestry, which are less profitable for the farmers themselves but have wider societal benefits, then widespread uptake will need to be helped through the use of subsidies, PES schemes or other initiatives so that the farmers are not bearing all the costs of implementation themselves.


Rapid land redistribution in Zimbabwe

Stephen Pringle presented our work on the impact of rapid land redistribution on the avian communities of Debshan Ranch in central southern Zimbabwe at this week’s African Bird Club annual meeting in London. He discusses the way in which the bird community differs between areas which, up until 2002, were managed by the same commercial game ranch, but which are now either used for subsistence agriculture, or game ranching.

You can watch Stephen talk on YouTube . Our thanks to the Rufford Small Grants Foundation and Debshan Ranch themselves for funding the study, and supporting our work in the field. You can read more about the background to the project on the Rufford website.

Exploring the water-energy-food nexus in Nepal

Nepal has the highest altitudinal range of any country. Its lowest point, in the Terai region, is below 100m, while we all know the highest, at well over 8000m. This presents the country with some unique challenges when it comes to food, energy and water usage and security, especially when you also consider the diversity of both natural and geohazards (landslides, floods, earthquakes) that can affect the country.

Together with Lindsay Stringer, we spent a week exploring the diverse topography of Nepal with Moti Rijal, from Tribhuvan University. Moti was an excellent host and took us through the Midlands, down to the Terai and back up to Kathmandu on some truly terrible roads, but with some amazing views. We’re all definitely looking forward to continuing our collaborations in the future.







Water trucks fill up on the outskirts of Kathmandu. A lack of mains water pipes means that the rapidly expanding city is dependent on these trucks






Some of the incredibly steep terrain in Nepal






Where there is some flat ground, rice is grown

Self-repairing Cities

Last week I went to my first (but not the first) quarterly meeting of the EPSRC funded ‘grand challenge’ project “Self-repairing Cities” ( Self-repairing Cities is primarily an initiative centred around automating the repair and maintenance of key pieces of built urban infrastructure, such as roads, street lights and pipework. Nevertheless, the implication for people and the natural world of widespread urban robotics is immense. My role in the project will be to assess the impacts of the anticipated level of automation on urban biodiversity. Watch out for a post-doc as part of the project which I’ll be advertising soon!

Urban Ecology at the British Ecological Society Annual Meeting

This week I had the pleasure of chairing the fascinating Urban Ecology session at the British Ecological Society’s Annual Meeting in Liverpool, so a big thank you to all the presenters. We had a really varied session, reflecting the huge breadth of research interest on cities from ecologists. We heard talks on the multi-functionality of brownfield sites, from Mark Goddard, urban greenspaces and their potential for biofuel and food production from Jill Edmondson, urban foxes from Dawn Scott, Frances Mullany talked about the impact of pollutants on urban robins, Helen Hoyle investigated the perspective of those who might manage and establish perennial urban meadows in public parks and Briony Norton introduced a method for assessing the walked experience of biodiversity in an urban environment. Finally, Richard Scott stole the show with his talk and then a fascinating and prolonged Q&A on cultural ecology and how the natural world can help tell the tale of the two cities of Liverpool and Manchester.