Ecosystem services and livelihood opportunities PDF Print E-mail

Ecosystem services and livelihood opportunities for Indigenous rural communities in savanna landscapes


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Project overview


The workshop aims to address sustainable development challenges and opportunities facing Indigenous peoples in savanna landscapes of northern Australia and adjacent regions in eastern Indonesia, Timor Leste, and Papua New Guinea (PNG). While the region is culturally diverse, its rural Indigenous populations share significant common challenges due to climate change conditions, but contemporaneously, potentially significant opportunities afforded through the exploration and development of novel carbon mitigation and related ecosystem services economies. This first workshop aims to instigate an ongoing regional discussion where challenges and opportunities are assessed critically through the lens of a formal resource economics analysis. The workshop is co-funded by ACEAS / TERN and the United Nations University, with organizational support from the North Australian Land & Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA) and Charles Darwin University.  

While regionally focused, this workshop takes place in the context of increasing international recognition of the urgency and importance of response to climate change. Through the inclusion of international invitees, it will incorporate the views and experience of international experts familiar with emerging economic tools and opportunities that enable explicit valuation of the contribution of Indigenous peoples and local communities to biodiversity conservation and climate change mitigation.

The opportunity for economic development based on ecosystem service values is underpinned by increased recognition of ‘non-market’ benefits provided from natural resource management. Activities from local land management to regional-scale policy are required for creating a framework for developing this new ecosystem services based economy, and a concerted scientific effort is required to quantify ecosystem service functioning and values. Increasing use of market-based instruments in addressing climate change will continue to open opportunities for developing an ecosystem services-based economy.


Objectives of the workshop are to:


  • Articulate key contemporary (terrestrial) land use management  challenges, including identification of commonalities and differences, facing Indigenous people in the four regions
  • Explore opportunities afforded through new economies related to climate change mitigation, carbon trading, and ecosystem services to help address identified challenges
  • Develop an understanding of opportunities afforded  through international instruments andcurrent initiatives (e.g. REDD+ and related)
  • Undertake (preliminary but rigorous) assessments of the value of ecosystem services to be derived from Indigenous lands through formal scenario modelling exercises (e.g. contrasting contemporary values with projected outcomes 20 years hence under current policy settings) for three case studies:
    • Northern Australia — carbon stocks (focusing especially on living biomass in vegetation), water resources, and biodiversity values
    • Timor (both West and East) - catchment management issues under increasing population and development pressures
    • TransFly region, PNG—forest values under developing  logging pressures
    • Produce outputs as agreed by workshop participants (e.g. summary report; position paper; funding proposal…?)

And based on this exercise, potentially

- Develop an ongoing funded regional network to support and foster cross-regional Indigenous development
partnerships in the Arafura region


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West Timor farmlands

West Timor farmlands


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Papuan New Guinean savanna with termite mound



For further information about the activities of this group please contact the Principal Investigator, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it



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Products and outcomes


Final report



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Ecosystem services and livelihood opportunities for Indigenous rural communities in savanna landscapes
FINAL REPORT available for download



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Workshop Report (7-11 May, 2012)


This workshop, held in Darwin, aimed to address sustainable development challenges and opportunities facing Indigenous peoples in savanna landscapes of northern Australia and adjacent regions in eastern Indonesia, Timor Leste, and Papua New Guinea (PNG).


Under the expert guidance of Professor Bob Costanza (Portland State University, USA) and Dr Scott Heckbert (formerly CSIRO, now Alberta Innovative Technology Futures, Canada), over 30 workshop participants with a diversity of scientific, economic, policy and operational backgrounds addressed the above objectives through a productive and enjoyable week, particularly in relation to the development of three regional scenarios:

  • Northern Australia—greenhouse gas emissions abatement and associated sequestration in living biomass, associated with changed savanna burning practices
  • Timor (both West and East)—catchment management issues under increasing population and development pressures
  • Trans-Fly region, PNG—forest values under developing logging pressures


Direct outcomes of the workshop have included:

  • preparation of two linked papers addressing (a) the fundamental importance of incorporating local Indigenous governance institutions in environmental services arrangements, and (b) conceptual modeling of the value of ecosystem services under respective scenario conditions, particularly in the context of global savanna land use pressures;
  • undertaking follow-up regional workshops late in 2012 to further develop ecosystem services modeling for Timor and the Trans-Fly scenarios, respectively; and
  • endorsement for convening a second synthetic cross-regional workshop in early to mid 2013 following completion of above activities.


With respect to the organizing of the May workshop may I thank and acknowledge:

  • ACEAS for co-funding, and the ACEAS team, Dr Alison Specht especially, for their support and forbearance with the undertaking of this somewhat logistically difficult and idiosyncratic workshop
  • the Institute of Advanced Studies, United Nations University, both for co-funding and the wise inputs of Catherine Monagle and Sam Johnston
  • Roanne Ramsey, Research Institute of the Environment & Livelihoods, CDU, again for making it all happen and her good humour
  • Rohan Fisher, Dr Andrew Edwards, Cameron Yates, and Dr Scott Heckbert for assembling and organising the diverse regional datasets
  • The Darwin Lab of CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences for use of their conference facilities
  • And of course, all participants for their respective contributions to such a successful undertaking

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Workshop attendees, May 7-11, 2012, Darwin.

Top: (left to right): Ida Kubiszewski, Portland State University, USA, Bruce Martin, APN, Aurukun, Bronwyn Myers, CSIRO, Darwin, Andrew Edwards, Bushfires NT.
Back row: (left to right): Emma Ligtermoet, Charles Darwin University, Peter Horne, ACIAR, Catherine Monagle, United Nations University, Andrew Reeson, CSIRO, Canberra, Jeremy Russell-Smith, Working Group PI, Darwin, Cameron Yates, Bushfires NT, Vanessa Adams, Charles Darwin University, Michael Poesi, PNG Sustainable Development Program,
Front row: (left to right): Rufina Peter, PNG Institute of National Affairs, Andrew Campbell, Charles Darwin University, Steve Cork, Consultant, Australia, Ouala Iuda, World Wildlife Fund, Papua New Guinea, Rohan Fisher, Bushfires NT, Paul Barker, PNG Institute of National Affairs, Stanis Tao, PNG Sustainable Development Program.


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From L-R: Emma Woodward, Peter Whitehead, Abilio Fonseca and Scott Heckbert

left to right: Emma Woodward, CSIRO, Darwin, Peter Whitehead, NAILSMA, Australia & RIEL/CDU, Australia, Abilio Fonseca, Timor Leste and Scott Heckbert, Portland State University, USA.

Absent: Sam Johnston, IAS United Nations University, Japan.


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Last Updated on Sunday, 08 February 2015 15:46