GCBC Research Symposium 2024: fostering connections and learning

GCBC Research Symposium 2024: fostering connections and learning

GCBC Research Symposium 2024: fostering connections and learning

by Claudine Domingue, Communications & Engagement Manager, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

GCBC Phase 1 and RGC1 projects meet for knowledge sharing, learning and networking

Underpinning GCBC’s mandate to unlock the potential of nature to deliver resilience to climate change and improve livelihoods is the need for funded projects to explore scalable solutions and develop trans-disciplinary partnerships within the programme.

In its role as Strategic Science Lead for GCBC, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew (RBG Kew) organized an all-day Research Symposium of talks and presentations to encourage collaboration between projects, hosting project leads from both established and newly funded projects. Representatives from the 14 projects who were funded as part of Phase 1 of the GCBC programme (2022 – 2024), as well as 13 projects announced as the recipients of the Research Grant Call1 (RGC1) funding in January 2024 were invited to attend.

The Research Symposium on 21 March 2024, also included staff from GCBC’s funding body – the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and Fund Management Lead DAI Global. With so many projects spread across the globe, we were fortunate to welcome many project representatives in person and several more were able to join online.

We were gifted with a beautiful spring day in which to congregate in Kew Garden’s historic Cambridge Cottage.

After a warm welcome from Kew’s Dr Monique Simmonds, OBE and Deputy Director of Science – Partnerships, the day officially began with insightful opening remarks from Professor Gideon Henderson, Chief Scientific Adviser at Defra.

Monique Simmonds with Gideon Henderson who reminded us all how urgently these programmes are needed and their potential benefits to us all.
l to r: Frida, Jessica, Constanza with Tim Wheeler.

Prof Tim Wheeler, newly appointed Deputy Director of International Science at Defra, spoke next and hosted the first panel of the day focussing on three of the seven projects awarded grant funding as part of Phase 1. These projects are identifying evidence gaps, new metrics, and policy options; with their outputs helping to shape GCBC’s priorities and guide future research and investments.

Joining him were Dr Constanza Gonzalez Parrao, Technical Lead on the Climate Change and Biodiversity Evidence Gap Map (based in Washington DC), Frida Diaz, Project Lead on the Nature Transition Support Programme (Columbia & Ecuador), and Dr Jessica Witt, Technical Lead on The Safe & Sustainable Food Systems (One Food) in South Africa.

Continuing with Phase 1 projects, the second panel of the morning was chaired by Dr Elizabeth Warham, Head of GCBC for Kew. These projects had focussed on research outcomes and impact for farmers and communities.

l to r: Richard, on stage with Elizabeth Warham, and Yves discuss the Bio+Mine project.
l to r: Richard, on stage with Elizabeth Warham, and Yves discuss the Bio+Mine project.
Carolina presents her project.









Speakers included two from the Biodiversity positive mining for the net zero challenge (Philippines), Prof Richard Herrington, Science Lead, and Yves Plancherel, Lead of the drone team. Kew’s Research leader in Ecosystem Stewardship, Dr Carolina Tovar, followed with her project, Realising the potential of plant bioresources as nature-based solutions in African biodiversity hotspots (Ethiopia).

Dr Elizabeth Cottier-Cook, Coordinator of Global Seaweed SUPERSTAR (Indonesia & Malaysia) and Dr Petr Sharov, Manager of Environmental Pollution Programme (Vietnam) also joined us remotely to talk about their work.

Helen is the Policy lead for Sexual Exploitation Abuse & Harassment (SEAH) Safeguarding for Defra ODA programmes.

Before our lunch break, Helen Poulsen, the Senior Social Development Adviser in Defra’s ODA Hub, gave us a thought-provoking presentation on the importance of considering gender equality and social inclusion as the GCBC grantees develop their projects.

After lunch – and for many, a stroll through Kew’s gardens – we returned for an afternoon of 5-minute flash talks by our newest grantees, facilitated by Samantha Morris, GCBC Project Manager for Kew. Ten of the 13 RGC1 projects attended both in-person and online giving us an informative overview of their upcoming work.

l to r: Bettina, Aster and Samantha listen to Mark Grindley’s talk online.

Joining us in person for these sessions, were Aster Gebrekistos (CIFOR-ICRAF) talking about Multifunctional agroforestry for Ethiopia and Bettina Heider (CIP) who spoke on Andean diversity for climate change (Peru & Ecuador).

Fiona Nunan (University of Birmingham) on Building adaptive fisheries governance capacity (Malawi & Uganda), Isabella Bovolo and Dr Anthony Brown (both University of Durham) presented on Enhancing coastal ecosystem services in Suriname and Guyana, and William Thompson (Oxford University) introducing his Flourishing Landscapes Programme in Ghana, Ecuador, and Vietnam.


l to r: Zuhail Thatey Mohamed (UNEP-WCMC), Lubasi Limweta (Oxford University).

Online we were pleased to meet Mark Grinley from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) with his project Following the Water in Madagascar, Stefano Barcheisi (Birdlife International) on Ecosystems services under climate change for Key Biodiversity Areas in Ecuador, and James Gibbons (Bangor University) on Habitat – harnessing smallholder pasture management for biodiversity in the Kenyan highlands.

l to r: Ryan Goldrick and Thomas Shaw (Defra), Subira Bjørnsen (Cadmus), Edward Gould (Defra).


Defra’s Jamie Carr, Bettina, and Aster – who travelled from Peru and Ethiopia for the symposium – chat during a break.









As Strategic Science Lead for GCBC, one of Kew’s goals is to encourage and nurture collaboration and learning within project groups and between research projects, and, by every measure, the research symposium achieved that result.

Our thanks to all the symposium participants and our Defra and DAI partners who attended.

All funded projects are listed here on the GCBC website: Projects – GCBC

* The GCBC is funded by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) with International Climate Finance and managed in partnership with DAI as Fund Management Lead. The Royal Botanic Gardens Kew is the Strategic Science Lead.  

** All photos ©RBGKew


GlobalSeaweed – Supporting livelihoods by Protecting, Enhancing and Restoring biodiversity by Securing the future of the seaweed Aquaculture industry in developing countries (SUPERSTAR)

Countries: Indonesia and Malaysia

Delivery partner: SAMS, NHM, University of Malaya, and others

Project summary: Directly address the acute problem of lack of protection and overharvesting of wild seaweeds. The operationally and policy-relevant project outputs will be used by the seaweed industry, Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLCs) and local, regional and global policymakers, with the aim of ensuring increased protection, enhanced climate resilience and the sustainable management of wild and cultivated stocks and their associated habitats. This will increase biodiversity, protect livelihoods and safeguard the future of this vital industry in seaweed-producing, developing countries in south-east Asia and globally.

Gran Tescual Indigenous Reservation Climate Plan

Delivery partner: CIASE

Project summary: This project has been proposed by indigenous women from an intersectional approach, this proposal aims to enhance the living conditions of the Pastos indigenous people residing in the Gran Tescual Reservation. This objective will be achieved through a comprehensive approach that involves researching biodiversity conservation and integrating indigenous knowledge to preserve their biocultural heritage. Additionally, the project will advocate for climate action, considering ethnic and gender considerations at the local, regional, and continental levels. To accomplish this, the project will focus on empowering the community by strengthening their ancestral knowledge, fostering inclusivity, and driving substantial changes in climate change policies. Ultimately, the overarching goal is to safeguard ecosystems, elevate the well-being of indigenous communities, and make a positive impact on biodiversity conservation, poverty alleviation, and the resilience of natural systems.

Andean Crop Diversity for Climate Change

Delivery partner: International Potato Center

Project summary: This project aims to strengthen the resilience of Andean agriculture by leveraging traditional potato and mashua varieties and genebank resources. Through an integrated and interdisciplinary approach, climate adaptation will be promoted and food security improved. Applied methods will involve participatory evaluations, nutritional analyses, market appraisals, genotyping and restoration of lost biodiversity. Transformational change will be achieved through the integration of research, knowledge sharing, innovations, and enhanced market access. The project will employ a comprehensive communication strategy to share key findings and foster policy engagement. It will also create lasting benefits by endorsing diversity conservation, catalyzing transformational change, and applying advanced agricultural technologies.

Nature Nurture

Countries: Indonesia, Tanzania, Philippines

Delivery partner: International Institute for Environment and Development

Project summary: Working closely with smallholder farmers in Indonesia, the Philippines and Tanzania, the project will tackle agrobiodiversity loss, which reduces livelihood options and climate resilience. Using the latest research co-production methodologies, it will improve evidence on how to upscale inclusive, resilient, agrobiodiverse production systems globally. It will build locally-based, internationally-linked research networks that enhance continuous long-term learning and capacity support around best practices with smallholder producers, fostering multidisciplinary partnerships that effectively advocate for better policies, leverage public and private investments, and drive transformation in how we produce food, fuel, fibre and medicines that are good for nature, climate and livelihoods.

Ecosystem services under climate change for Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs)

Delivery partner: Birdlife International

Project summary: This project aims to inform site management and protection strategies for Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in Ecuador by generating robust knowledge on the ecosystem services delivered by these sites and their beneficiaries, as well as their exposure and resilience under climate change. This new evidence of the impacts on livelihoods of climate change and different management or protection options, and the resulting recommendations, will directly support more effective implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework ‘30×30 target’, and lead to better-informed decision-making for nature and people

Multifunctional agroforestry for Ethiopia

Delivery partner: International Centre for Research in Agroforestry

Project summary: The project will generate evidence on how highland systems in Ethiopia could be improved for a more biodiverse future that supports improved livelihoods and poverty reduction. By comparing traditional and modern agroforestry systems in four regions of Ethiopia, the project will implement a suite of knowledge-based multifunctional agroforestry systems on homesteads, farmland areas, and model rural resource centres to promote uptake of multifunctional agroforestry. The project will generate scalable tools, approaches, knowledge products and capacity building for thousands of highland farmers. It will also develop a strategy, partnerships and infrastructure to lay the foundation for further land restoration, biodiversity protection, poverty alleviation, and improved ecosystem resilience.

HABITAT – Harnessing Pasture Biodiversity and Productivity

Delivery partner: Bangor University

Project summary: The highlands of Kenya comprise some of the most biodiverse regions of the world. However, these regions are under significant threat to land degradation as a result of human-induced climate change, land-use change, and the unsustainable use of the natural resources. Smallholder extensive dairy farms that rely on pastures to feed their cattle play an especially important role in these ecosystems. While these vulnerable farmers rely inextricably on the ecosystem services of the natural resources, often their management practices contribute significantly to their degradation. As identified by local stakeholders, while some research exists dedicated to understanding pasture management practices in these systems and greenhouse gas emissions, little is known about the trade-offs and synergies with biodiversity, and productivity.

By adopting a multidisciplinary approach, the project will explore existing pasture management practices, identifying ones that lead to enhanced biodiversity indicators and improved productivity, thereby decreasing GHG emission intensities, tackling poverty and enhancing climate resilience. Project partners will work with the farmers in their communities to stimulate farmer to farmer dissemination and scaling of improved practices. This will be facilitated by analyses of the potential bottlenecks and opportunities for different farming household types to use improved pasture management practices. More nuanced recommendations for stakeholders and policy makers resulting from these processes will further enable the scaling of these practices to similar contexts in the African region.


Understanding Cherangany links to human wellbeing

Delivery Partner: Nature Kenya

Summary: The aim is to promote positive long-term impacts for biodiversity, poverty alleviation and ecosystem resilience to climate change in the Cherangany forest landscape. The question is “How can natural resources in Cherangany Hills Forests be used in a way and at a rate that maintains and enhances the biodiversity they harbor, the resilience of key habitats or ecosystems and the benefits they provide in the light of projected climate changes? The hypothesis is that “Understanding the levers for linking forests and biodiversity with human well-being and climate resilience in Cherangany forests will provide the foundation for future sustainable natural resource management.

The project targets research and development of solutions which will be applied by national and county governments, local communities and conservation agencies and actors to protect and sustainably use biological diversity for climate adaptation and mitigation, as well as supporting and improving livelihoods through climate smart agriculture and natural resources management. The aim is achieved by generating evidence and understanding in key forest, biodiversity, climate and human well-being interrelated output areas as follows: Ecosystem Services Assessment of the Cherangany forest landscape; Restoration Opportunity Assessment and Mapping (ROAM) of the Cherangany forest landscape; Cherangany Forest Restoration Business case; Ecosystem Based Adaptation Strategy and action plan; and Participatory Forest Management Plans implemented by community forest associations. These knowledge products will be published and disseminated widely to promote their implementation through financing from all sources.

The research work will be led by Nature Kenya as the lead applicant coordinating a research partnership composed of National Museums of Kenya (Biodiversity), Kenya Forestry Research Institute (Social forestry); Kenyatta University (Ecosystem Services and ROAM) and the Kenya Forest Service (Participatory forest management). The delivery of the planned outputs is aligned with the GCBC long-term outcome of increased implementation of public/private investment in more effective climate resilient development via the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. This will result in the overall impact on biodiversity, poverty alleviation and improved ecosystem resilience.

Building adaptive fisheries governance capacity

Countries: Uganda, Malawi

Delivery Partner: University of Birmingham

Summary: This research will deliver positive impacts on biodiversity, poverty alleviation and improved ecosystem resilience through strengthening the adaptive governance capacity of inland fisheries in Malawi and Uganda. The research will take a transdisciplinary co-production approach, working closely with the departments of fisheries, NGOs and local communities in all activities, and facilitate South-South learning. The project will include assessment of adaptive governance capacity at national, district and community levels, studies on information generation and changing fishing practices, and learning from action research involving pilot biodiversity protection interventions and network meetings. New evidence will be generated and plans for adaptive governance developed.