A new IMéRA research group launched on June 20th 2019

IMeRA Research Group Workshop, June 20th – 26th 2019

Ecological perspectives on development, land use and climate change, by Andrew Dobson (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University) and Mercedes Pascual (Ecology and Evolution, University of Chicago),  co-holders of the IRD/IMéRA Chair on Sustainable Development 2018-2019.

Climate change and loss of biological diversity have moved the environment to the center of the political stage. There are no viable economic models that governments can turn to for advice in determining long-term environmental policy.  The core structure of most economic models is ill-equipped to deal with the non-linearities and thresholds that characterize the dynamics of species, ecosystems and the services they supply to the human economy.  Similarly, ecological models have not been developed in ways that provide insights that are useful to economists.  One important connection between these two areas is through the dynamics of infectious diseases of both humans and domestic livestock as economic health is often synonymous with physical health and well-being. domestic livestock provide an opportunity to better integrate ecological models with economic models.

Over the last couple of years, we have been developing models that seek to integrate together infectious diseases dynamics, land-use change, biodiversity and economic benefits to humans.   We would like to use this workshop to initially present and critique the model frameworks we have been developing and then use additional expertise to expand and refine these frameworks.  A central core of our work is addressing the role that vector-borne diseases and in particular malaria play in the development of the Brazilian Amazon.  This effort includes the on-going development of an agent-based model as part of a working group at SESYNC (The National Socio-Ecological Synthesis Center, Annapolis, USA) who has met twice last year. Other modeling efforts at the interface of land-use, biodiversity and economics were initiated as part of the residence at IMeRA of three previous chairs (Dobson, Licandro and Pascual), who are also part of the SESYNC working group. A working meeting at IMeRA would provide the opportunity to bring together participants of these overlapping and complementary studies. Specific aims include: (1) the further development of the agent-based model, in particular its economic and human decisions component, (2) the mathematical analysis of a more general, population-based model for land-use dynamics, ecosystem services and economics, written in the form of partial and ordinary differential equations. We would also like to address how to expand this program to examine similar issues in East and West Africa and South East Asia using a common modelling framework.

We envision the meeting as starting with brief presentations to bring all participants on board. We would then follow with break-out subgroups working on particular problems, with intermittent updates and discussions of the whole group. We would end with presentations open to the community within the IRD/IMeRA research cycle on Sustainable Development, launched on October 2018, a cycle at the interface of ecology, development and infectious diseases.

The list of participants includes besides the director of IMeRA, Raouf Boucekkine, the three previous chairs mentioned above, Andrew Dobson (Princeton), Omar Licandro (Nottingham) and Mercedes Pascual (University of Chicago), other participants from the SESYNC working group, Andres Baeza (ASU, USA) and Claudia Codeco (FioCruz, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil), and Ted Temzelides (Rice University, USA) an economist working on energy  and climate change currently in residence at IMeRA. Giorgio Fabbri (CNRS, Grenoble) and Fausto Gozzi (Luiss University, Roma) have also joined the group, their technical expertise is critical to the analytical objectives of the group. To foster interactions with local partners’ labs, Jean-François Guégan (IRD), Jean Gaudart (SESSTIM,  IRD), Joël Guiot (CEREGE), Charles Figuières (AMSE) and Alberte  Bondeau (IMBE), among others, have also been invited.

To conclude, the proposed working group would build on the momentum of our previous activities and interactions at IMeRA. Through this continuation, we seek solutions that are both useful for guiding development in these regions and that also provide broader and more general insights on how loss of biodiversity interacts with infectious diseases to drive local economies for people who live in economically challenged  situations.