Mapping and assessment of ecosystem services to improve resource management and human wellbeing in data-scarce peri-urban ecosystems
The ecosystem service (ES) approach acknowledges the fundamental interactions between biodiversity, ecosystems, natural resources and human wellbeing, while substantiating both tangible and intangible benefits of ecosystems to humans. Reflecting on the challenges of rapid population growth and land use changes in Africa’s urban areas on the one hand, and the opportunities provided by the ES approach on the other hand, the thesis adopts suitable ES mapping and assessment methodologies, frameworks and tools. Focus is directed to the emerging peri-urban ecosystems with complex social and ecological (socio-ecological) interactions, and with limited data and expertise. This focus helps to identify the socio-ecological problems of peri-urban ecosystems and the plausible solutions in developing countries. Chapter 1 introduces crucial definitions, concepts and frameworks for ES mapping and assessment. Results show, first, that there is an increase in ES studies between the year 2005 and 2014 in Africa, and they are heterogeneously distributed across the continent. Second, based on a peri-urban case study in Nairobi Kenya, rapid conversions of grassland and forestland into settlements over time have caused a decline in the potential for regulating ES in the area. Third, cultural ES (intangible benefits from the peri-urban ecosystem) positively influence human wellbeing and could improve resource policy of the area. Fourth, the gap between the potential and demand for provisioning ES is increasing over time, hence proposing an adaptive policy against the socio-ecological dynamics in the peri-urban areas. In conclusion, the thesis recommends that the adoption of the ES approach in research could guide proactive measures, hence averting future pressures on the socio-ecological processes and thus enhancing the status of the biodiversity and ecosystems, optimizing natural resource use and improving human wellbeing in the study area.
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