RCUK-SEA Identifying trade-offs of changing land use for aquatic environmental and socio-economic health and facilitating sustainable solutions

Lead Research Organisation: National Oceanography Centre
Department Name: Science and Technology


The economies of Southeast Asian countries (Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines), and hence living standards of people living in this region, are intimately coupled to the ocean which is a valuable source of protein via fisheries and income via tourism. Many of these regions also contain valuable natural resources in the shape of forests and peatland which can be harvested for timber, converted to agricultural systems and which store carbon thus regulating the composition of our atmosphere and reducing the rate of global warming. Working out best how to extract resources from terrestrial systems with minimal impact on the coastal systems that they are linked to via rivers is an enormous challenge; logging and land clearance leads to soils entering rivers and coastal waters, changing their transparency, altering fisheries and ultimately losing carbon to the atmosphere. What is needed to understand the best way to manage these competing pressures on the natural environment is information about how it functions and about how the communities which use these systems will respond to likely changes. Putting together the natural scientists who think about soils, forests and rivers with those social scientists who understand what drives people to make the decisions about how they live their lives that they make is a massive challenge. However unless we do this we will only understand one half of the problem. In this project we will therefore both sample coastal waters and rivers in western Borneo to assess their functioning and health and assess the needs of the local communities via questionnaires and interviews. We will put these two halves of the project together via a series of workshops which we believe will better help Malaysia cope with environmental change and manage their natural resources in a sustainable manner. Key elements of the project involve sampling a range of disturbed and Undisturbed rivers and coastal waters, working out the key processes which lead to the loss of soil into the Marine environment, what happens to it and how it affects the ecosystem and looking at how these processes have changed over time and how people's exploitation of coastal espouses have evolved in parallel.

Planned Impact

The project will generate information of relevance to a range of non-academic constituencies including:
1/ The general public of Malaysia, particularly residents of the affected areas and those dependent on the resources, ecosystems services and livelihoods they provide;
2/ Official bodies with environmental resource management responsibilities, such as the Department of Irrigation and Drainage Sarawak (http://www.did.sarawak.gov.my/);
3/ Land users and relevant industries such as the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (http://www.palmoilworld.org/index.html);
4/ NGOs such as the Wildlife Conservation Society (https://www.wcs.org/) and those concerned with the application of scheme such as REDD+;
5/ The International Panel on Climate Change.
Direct engagement with local communities will be an intrinsic party of our study as mediated by the Vulnerability Assessment. As such we will contact local village long house leaders and village councils to obtain relevant permissions. An important part of this aspect of the study will be to explain the purpose and ultimately the findings of our research, thus also serving as a mechanism of outreach and engagement. All communication will be carefully planned and executed in a culturally appropriate manner, for example enlisting speakers of local dialects. A key aspect of the project is the stakeholder engagement programme, which when executed, will provide the primary means of realizing our study's impact. The first step of this programme is the development of a plan by which to identify appropriate stakeholders, and determine the purpose, means and aims of engaging them to ensure that maximum socioeconomic benefit is generated from the project, both in terms of safeguarding the local environment, and also enabling commercial activity to continue in a sustainable manner. To ensure this generates the maximum impact possible, expert knowledge has been recruited to assist in drafting the plan in the form of Mr Kevin Forshaw, Associate Director of Innovation and Enterprise, and Ms Lucy Calvert, Head of Communications and member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (both NOC), as well as the Research and Innovation Programme Manager at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, Ms Izza Ismail. In developing the plan we will follow the guidelines laid down by NERC on influencing international policy making and best practices for working with and through other stakeholders. We will also adhere to NERC's guidelines on maintaining impartiality and will resist any attempts made by stakeholders to enlist our support in lobbying activities. It is anticipated that a range of stakeholder engagement strategies will be employed but the main vehicle will be face-to-face meetings where targeted, succinct information will be presented in a culturally appropriate manner which could not be construed to contain any political bias. When engaging potentially politically sensitive stakeholders the onus will be placed on working in collaboration. Thus as the project evolves we will seek to assist in the development and trial of mitigation strategies, which even if results are not forth coming at these preliminary stages, will help to foster trust and facilitate future projects in partnership with commercial ventures. As part of the culmination of the project when the data sets are finalized we aim to host a number of larger scale events in the form of receptions. The aim is to present our project in a manner which promotes credibility and prestige in those stakeholders attending. The receptions themselves will provide a mean by which the scientific information gathered can be presented in an accessible and engaging way. Our primary means of engaging the IPCC will be via providing data potentially able to inform and thereby improve Earth Systems Models which will be conducted as detailed in Academic Beneficiaries.


10 25 50
Description Formal audience with Minister for Education, Science and Technological Research Sarawak
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Our participation in formal policy request to develop a dedicated oceanographic research centre in Sarawak Malaysia, will ultimately enhance local research and education, informing policy making on management of natural resources and climate change preparedness.
Description Session convener Newton - Ungku Omar at Malaysia's International Conference On Marine Science and Aquaculture 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Session convener Newton - Ungku Omar at Malaysia's International Conference On Marine Science and Aquaculture. The session provided a platform to communicate the findings of our Newton Project to national and international delegates. It improved understanding in related science disciplines, strengthened our existing international collaborations and allowed us to make new ones.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL http://www.ums.edu.my/ipmbv2/icomsa/index.html
Description Talk at Malaysia's International Conference On Marine Science and Aquaculture 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Talk summarising the objectives and findings to date of the our Newton Project. This improved general understanding of the project and the related science. It also fostered greater collaboration with researchers in SE Asia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018