Oppenheimer Programme in African Landscape Systems (OPALS)

Using environmental information for sustainable land management

This theme focuses on enhancing the accessibility and use of environmental information and data to support more sustainable socioenvironmental systems in African landscapes.

Ecosystems are naturally resilient but sometimes this resilience is reduced by human activity through direct (e.g., land management decisions) or indirect (e.g., climate change) mechanisms. This theme centres around improving the accessibility and utilisation of environmental data and knowledge to help support sustainable land management. A central aspect is improving understanding of the resilience inherent in socio-ecological systems and their ecosystem service provision in Africa, and how learning how targeted interventions can sustain and enhance this resilience in the face of ongoing climate and land-use change. This theme encompasses several projects, which are co-created in partnership with local partners and communities.

Working with Conservation South Africa (CSA) in the Republic of South Africa, an Impact Scholar will undertake an MSc in Applied Data Science for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Exeter to empower them to use reproducible and scalable techniques to facilitate the collection and analysis of environmental data. This activity will help to inform robust evaluations of management interventions trialled by CSA and their partners.

Working with the Botswana University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (BUAN) and the University of Botswana (UB), four MSc scholarships will be awarded to enhance the use of fine-scale remote sensing in studying rangeland condition and management. Research capacity at partner institutions will be supported through long term multi-level knowledge exchange.

Partnering with the Université de N’Djaména alongside the UNESCO BIOPALT (BIOsphere et PAtrimonie de la Lac Tchad) programme, an Chadian Impact Scholar will undertake an MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity at the University of Exeter before returning to the Université de N’Djaména to support training programmes in ecological restoration and sustainable land management across the region.

Finally, a doctoral project will focus on the measurement of plant traits and the detection of invasive species in African rangelands, working with partners from the University of Botswana. The novel approaches using fine-scale remote sensing will be made available open access with training workshops facilitated for local partners to facilitate knowledge transfer in using these new approaches.