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Environmental dynamics and governance

Among the greatest threats to human society are a range of environmentally-based challenges including global warming (and its associated impacts including the spread of pests and disease), food security, resource depletion and biodiversity loss. Research examining these fields, and the approaches required to mitigate and adapt to them, underpin the focus of the Environmental Dynamics and Governance (EDG) research priority area.

The researchers within EDG aim to shed new light on environmental change by combining information and evidence from the natural and social sciences with policy approaches. Current research examines the interface between physical and human environments, and identifies the patterns, trends and outcomes associated with environmental processes and governance interactions in a more holistic way than would be possible by focusing on only one of these in isolation. The areas of investigation range across the highly localised to the global and from time periods of just a few hours to millions of years. The intention is to enable is to find ways that maximise the wellbeing of people and to mitigate or reverse damage to the ecosystems on which society is dependent.

EDG is largely comprised of teaching and research staff from the Faculty of Applied Sciences (AS) and in particular, but not exclusively, from the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI) and School of Natural and Social Sciences, which include the Centre for Environmental Change and Quaternary Research and the Centre for the Study of Floods and Communities. However, the breadth of this Priority Research Area will also engender new, cross-cutting collaborations with other university faculties and with the public, non-profit and business sectors. The research within EDG will flow directly into teaching and supervision, for undergraduate, postgraduate taught and postgraduate research students.

Our strength lies in an interdisciplinary approach which is combined with the team’s active links to a range of stakeholders engaged in agriculture, environmental management and protection, policy making, business and action at both local and international scales. The scope of the research is wide, covering arenas such as responses to flooding, climate change adaptation, and improving policies for ecosystem resilience and by developing multi-purpose rural land uses (producing food, fuel, bioenergy, leisure benefits, high quality landscapes and biodiversity); dealing with wastes; and exploring techniques for assessing environmental impacts (such as life cycle analysis and carbon footprinting). Solutions often require the blending of knowledge from social and natural sciences to inform the practice and policy of adaptation and mitigation solutions. 

A key focus of the EDG research team is to engage with individuals and organisations, developing and sharing mechanisms that have the power to change behaviour, shape institutions and enable innovation.-related areas of activity:

Investigating social, ecological and social-ecological systems

This area involves assessing natural and socio-cultural resource management and interaction in varying situations. Many systems and their complex interactions (both ecological and social) remain poorly understood and there is a need more fully to analyse their current status and vulnerability to change.

Climate change dynamics and societal change

This involves the reconstruction and dating of climatic and environmental change; the effects of recent and current change on ecosystems and communities; and prediction of the effects of future change on physical environment, ecological processes, and human environmental systems using various techniques and approaches across the natural and social sciences. How to communicate climate change and the need for societal change also form part of this theme and draws on existing strengths within science communication and sustainable literacy as well as the need for an evolving, dynamic and responsive approach.

Environmental governance, policy and strategies

This focuses on participatory action and knowledge exchange to inform current and future strategies and policies linked to the management of finite, renewable and shared resources. This area centres on addressing the need and opportunities for more holistic understanding and innovative approaches to governance and policy by addressing real-world problems and supporting voluntary, community and governance action for sustainability and resilience.

Learning for change and innovation

This area involves working with various institutions, organisations and interest groups at all scales, to build adaptive capacity and develop greater resilience to environmental change. The focus is upon generating social interaction, cross-fertilization, and synergies, which themselves create new linkages from which innovations (e.g. in renewable energy adoption) more readily arise.