Application of ecosystem services research to understand the impact of climate change on socio-ecological vulnerability

Climate change has been linked to observed changes in health and vulnerability such as changing disease extents, malnutrition, pollution. The effects of climate change are not evenly distributed, with subsets of the worldwide population more vulnerable to disease and injury (WHO 2003). Hence, understanding sub-national spatial and social differentiation of vulnerability, and how specific health conditions mediate this will be critical to an improved understanding of this threat. Population vulnerability depends on factors such as population density, food availability, level of economic development, income level and distribution, local environmental conditions, pre-existing health status, and the quality and availability/access of public health care (Zou and Yoshino, 2017).

The overall aim of this project is to employ ecosystem services (ES) research to gain a better understanding of human wellbeing, social and ecological vulnerability and capacity to adapt to climate hazards in East Africa. ES are the many and varied benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and from healthy ecosystems. No ES research has been conducted in the past to evaluate social-ecological vulnerability, adaptive capacity and links to health and population wellbeing.

The specific objectives of this project will be.

1. To analyse ecosystem services indicators for East Africa, including remotely sensed Earth Observation (EO) data and understanding of their association with routinely collected vulnerability indices.

2. To model the temporal and spatial dynamics of ecosystem services on small geographies.

3. To assess the social and ecological vulnerability of populations from ecosystem parameters and identify particularly vulnerable regions (i.e. those that are least well equipped to cope with the impacts of climate change)

4. To conduct scenario modelling of country-level specific projections up to the year 2050 for climate effects under different scenarios.

Where does the project lie on the Translational Pathway?

T1 – Basic Research

Expected Outputs

The project is expected to generate at least 3 papers in an international refereed epidemiology and public health journal. Statistical software of the newly developed methods will be made publicly available in a dedicated GitHub repository

Training Opportunities

The student will be expected to gain specialized statistical training as part of the MSc in Health Data Science delivered at Lancaster University

Skills Required

The student should be willing and able to learn new statistical methods and be able to carry out statistical analyses in the R software environment

Key Publications associated with this project

Talisuna AO, Okiro EA, Yahaya AA, Stephen M, Bonkoungou B, Musa EO, Minkoulou EM, Okeibunor J, Impouma B, Djingarey HM, Yao NKM, Oka S, Yoti Z, Fall IS (2020). Spatial and temporal distribution of infectious disease epidemics, disasters and other potential public health emergencies in the World Health Organisation Africa region, 2016-2018. Global Health, 16: 9

[PMID: 31941554] [PMCID: 6964091]

Stern DI, Gething PW, Kabaria CW, Temperley WH, Noor AM, Okiro EA, Shanks GD, Snow RW, Hay SI (2011). Temperature and malaria trends in highland East Africa.PLoS One, 6: e24524

[PMID: 21935416] [PMCID: 3174181]

Macharia PM, Mumo E, Okiro EA (2021). Modelling geographical accessibility to urban centres in Kenya in 2019. PLoS One, 16: e0251624.

[PMID: 33989356] [PMCID: 8127925]

Macharia PM, Joseph NK, Okiro EA (2020). A vulnerability index for COVID-19: spatial analysis at the subnational level in Kenya. BMJ Global Health, 5: e003014

[PMID: 32839197] [PMCID: 7447114]

Macharia PM, Joseph NK, Sartorius B, Snow RW, Okiro EA (2021). Subnational estimates of factors associated with under-five mortality in Kenya: a spatio-temporal analysis, 1993-2014. BMJ Global Health, 6: e004544. [PMID: 33858833] [PMCID: 8054106]

Now Accepting Applications 

CLOSING DATE FOR APPLICATIONS: Application Portal closes: Wednesday 9th February 2022 (12:00 noon UK time)

Shortlisting complete by: End Feb/early March 2022

Interviews by: Late March/early April 2022

For more information on Eligibility, funding and how to apply please visit the MRC DTP/CASE pages