Have ESR-sponsored training courses stimulated uptake of ecosystem service science?
Between 2014 and 2016, the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE) Ecosystem Service and Resilience (ESR) Core Theme supported a series of trainings aimed at enabling adoption of the ecosystem service approach to agriculture and natural resource management. Trainings were conducted in 5 different countries, spanning Africa and Central America, and provided hands-on training of Integrated Ecosystem Assessment and Management (IEAM) tools, namely RIOS/InVEST (Natural Capital Project) or Costing Nature/WaterWorld (Policy Support Systems). In total, 112 people from 51 organizations including seven CGIAR centres (Bioversity International, CIAT, ICARDA, IFPRI, ILRI, IWMI, World-Fish) participated. There were also attendants from 44 CGIAR partners, including universities, research centres, government agencies, environmental consultancies, and NGOs. Trainings were supported and facilitated by partners including CATIE, CIAT, TNC, SAPECS, WWF, SNV World Burkina Faso, and in particular, The Natural Capital Project and Kings College London (tool developers and the trainers).
But is IEAM tools training effective at stimulating adoption of an ecosystem service approach? To help answer this question, we looked into whether participants used ecosystem service concepts or applied IEAM tools more if they attended an IEAM training course. For this, we asked all training participants to complete an online survey about their familiarity with ecosystem services pre- and post-training, their application of IEAM tools, difficulties faced, benefits generated from the trainings and interest in future training. For comparison, we also surveyed a sample of ecosystem services researchers who did not participate in any training course identified from their publications on CGspace and Web of Science databases. In total we contacted 156 participants and non-participants to answer our survey, and received information from 52 (32 training participants and 20 others). This is what they told us:
Before the workshop, most trainees (90%) were not familiar with the IEAM tools presented. After the trainings, almost two thirds of the trainees did not have the opportunity to apply the tools to their research (65%), the good news is that for the remaining trainees who did apply the tools, most did it successfully (90%). The most commonly reported difficulty for those that used the tool was lack of input data, followed by limited GIS knowledge. Participants mainly used online tool support and user forums to address such difficulties. Trainees who apply the EIAM tools most commonly look at water provision and sediment retention services, in contrast to other ecosystem service researchers who most often assessed carbon storage and sequestration. Besides furthering their own research, participants mentioned informing the decision-making process as one of the benefits they perceived from applying the tools. Non-participants often used IEAM tools presented during the trainings (InVEST in particular, used in 37% of the assessments); nonetheless other tools such as TESSA are also commonly used among ecosystem services researchers.
Most of the participants and non-participants expressed interest in future training (84%), but opinion was split on the whether this should entail introductory or advanced training, working together with an expert on their specific problem, or sharing experiences and difficulties with other practitioners.
Find out more about the adoption of the ecosystem services approach after the training courses in this infographic.
Find out more about the methodology for assessing the Ecosystem services training courses with the methodology sheet.
If you participated in an ESR training, please complete the online survey.