PRESENCE - Environmental Systems Analysis Group

PRESENCE - Participatory Restoration of Ecosystem SErvices and Natural Capital (on the Eastern Cape) -

Applying transdisciplinary research approaches to support dynamic landscapes, ecosystem integrity & sustainable livelihoods in South Africa’s subtropical thicket biome.

PRESENCE is an applied research initiative aimed at assisting the restoration of degraded landscapes and supporting poverty alleviation within the subtropical thicket biome to support the South African Government’s Working for Woodlands Program and Subtropical Thicket Restoration Project (STRP). The subtropical thicket is a biome rich in biodiversity, vital to the livelihoods of thousands of people and its degradation leads to the depletion of natural resources and overall ecosystem services provision. Hence, there is a call for participatory restoration based on scientific and transdisciplinary approaches, proposed through a joint collaboration between WUR and South African universities and institutions.

PRESENCE will address key scientific knowledge gaps and undertake empirical research to ensure that restoration of degraded areas within South Africa’s subtropical thicket biome is:
  • Stakeholder-driven and recognises trade-offs in restoring desired ecosystem services;
  • ecologically sound and maximises ecosystem integrity and biodiversity outcomes; 
  • socio-economically acceptable in supporting livelihoods and cultural traditions; 
  • financially viable through the development of innovative financing mechanisms for ecosystem management (e.g. carbon credits (CDM), water credits, biodiversity credits); 
  • institutionally feasible through good governance arrangements and change processes.
The first phase of PRESENCE has been made possible through the support of WUR INREF seed money and with co-funding from the South African Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF). The project is facilitated by EarthCollective and the Rhodes Restoration Research Group (R3G). Participating WUR Chair Groups are the Geo-information Science and Remote Sensing Group (GRS), Environmental System Analysis Group (ESA) and the Environmental Policy Group (ENP). The ESA Group will support PRESENCE through the provision of knowledge, advice and expertise related to assessing the value and importance of ecosystem services present in the thicket biome. In addition, the ESA Group will contribute to the growing understanding of how various financing options may sustain long-term ecosystem restoration (e.g. payments for environmental services and carbon, water, landscape beauty and biodiversity credits).

In this seed phase, the PRESENCE project team is identifying relevant gaps in knowledge and expertise, priority scientific research questions and setting up a workshop of potential partners to be held in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa in November 2007. The purpose of this workshop is to define research strategies, PhD trajectories and expanded funding options to guiding restoration implementation in the Eastern Cape.In addition, a number of MSc students from the ESA Group are currently participating in a related pilot study (Integrated Ecosystem Services Assessment: Baviaanskloof (IESAB)) coordinated by EarthCollective and the Rhodes Restoration Research Group (R3G). The results of their theses will feed into the PRESENCE workshop and future project phases.

More information:

PRESENCE webpage