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SPACES is a research project which was started in September, 2013 and will run up to August 2017. It aims to collaborate with stakeholders living and working at the coast to identify opportunities for coastal ecosystems to contribute more to poor people’s lives and wellbeing. In the video above, Professor Kate Brown introduces the SPACES aims and framework.

SPACES has also received additonal impact funding from ESPA. This funding will allow SPACES to continue to work with impact activities until December 2017.

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Our Core Objective

To contribute to poverty alleviation by combining scientific research and knowledge, with local expertise and coastal people’s own experiences and knowledge.

Our Activities

SPACES will study how the condition of coral reefs and mangroves, and the ecological dynamics that determine this, affects the ‘flow’ of potentially useful services, how human inputs turn these into benefits and how social processes distribute these benefits to different members of society.

The project will analyse these ‘ecosystem-wellbeing’ chains and compare them across different kinds of ecosystem services in different contexts to understand how ecosystem services are linked to wellbeing and to identify potential policy levers that can enhance how poor people benefit from ecosystem services.

SPACES activities include:

    1. Mangrove activities
    2. Coral reef and fisheries activities
      1. Fish Catch Monitoring
      2. Coral Reef Surveys
      3. Carbonate Budget
    3. well-being activities
    4. Household Survey
    5. Cultural services
    6. Tourism survey
    7. Value Chain Analysis
    8. Scenario workshops
    9. Policy analysis
    10. Impact activities
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Toy models and scenario development with stakeholders

SPACES will use participatory models and scenarios with stakeholders to understand the local social ecological systems in terms of feedback dynamics, trade-offs and opportunities for sustainable poverty alleviation. This part of the project will build on methods developed in a previous ESPA framework grant.

Our collaboration with a range of partners aims to have impacts on the wellbeing of poor inhabitants of the rapidly transforming coastal areas in Mozambique and Kenya.

Schematic of how the different components of the SPACES project will connect. Roman numerals refer to the different activity clusters: mapping ecosystem service - wellbeing chains through the (I) Ecological and (II) Social components; (III) systems-level analysis to compare these chains in different local contexts; and (IV) activities to increase the impact of the SPACES project.

Schematic of how the different components of the SPACES project will connect. Roman numerals refer to the different activity clusters: mapping ecosystem service - wellbeing chains through the (I) Ecological and (II) Social components; (III) systems-level analysis to compare these chains in different local contexts; and (IV) activities to increase the impact of the SPACES project.


SPACES é um projecto de investigação que foi iniciado em setembro de 2013 e será executado até agosto de 2016. Destina-se a colaborar com as partes interessadas que vivem e trabalham na costa para identificar oportunidades de ecossistemas costeiros a contribuir mais para a vida das pessoas pobres e bem-estar. No vídeo abaixo, Professor Kate Brown introduz os objectivos espaços e estrutura.

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O Nosso Principal Objectivo

Para contribuir para a redução da pobreza através da combinação de pesquisa e conhecimento científico, com expertise local e as próprias experiências das pessoas costeiras e conhecimento.

Nossas Atividades

SPACES vai estudar como a condição dos recifes e manguezais de coral e as dinâmicas ecológicas que determinam isso, afeta o "fluxo" de serviços potencialmente úteis, como as entradas humanos transformá-los em benefícios e como processos sociais distribuem esses benefícios para diferentes membros da sociedade.

O projeto irá analisar estas correntes 'ecossistema', bem-estar e compará-los entre diferentes tipos de serviços ecossistêmicos em diferentes contextos para entender como os serviços dos ecossistemas estão ligados ao bem-estar e para identificar potenciais alavancas políticas que podem melhorar a forma como as pessoas pobres beneficiar de serviços ecossistêmicos.

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Modelos Brinquedos e Desenvolvimento Cenário Com as Partes Interessadas

SPACES usará modelos participativos e cenários com as partes interessadas para compreender os sistemas ecológicos sociais locais em termos de dinâmica de comentários, trade-offs e oportunidades para a redução da pobreza sustentável. Esta parte do projeto terá como base métodos desenvolvidos em uma anterior ESPA concessão quadro.

A nossa colaboração com uma série de parceiros pretende ter impactos sobre o bem-estar dos habitantes pobres das zonas costeiras rapidamente transformando em Moçambique e Quênia.

Esquemática de como os diferentes componentes do projecto SPACES irá se conectar. Algarismos romanos referem-se aos diferentes grupos de atividades: mapeamento serviço do ecossistema - cadeias de bem-estar através do (I) os componentes sociais e ecológicos (II); (III) a análise de sistemas de nível para comparar estas cadeias em diferentes contextos locais; e (IV) atividades para aumentar o impacto do projeto ESPAÇOS.

Esquemática de como os diferentes componentes do projecto SPACES irá se conectar. Algarismos romanos referem-se aos diferentes grupos de atividades: mapeamento serviço do ecossistema - cadeias de bem-estar através do (I) os componentes sociais e ecológicos (II); (III) a análise de sistemas de nível para comparar estas cadeias em diferentes contextos locais; e (IV) atividades para aumentar o impacto do projeto ESPAÇOS.



SPACES core objective is to contribute to poverty alleviation by combining scientific research and knowledge, with local expertise and coastal people’s own experiences and knowledge.

The SPACES team has (1) uncovered scientific knowledge on the relationship between ecosystem services (ES), poverty, and human wellbeing (WB). The researchers have found that different kinds of ecosystem services and wellbeing are linked in monetary and non-monetary ways. The practice of engaging in an ecosystem service and the use of an ecosystem service contributes to wellbeing as does the money gained from it. For example, the practice of cooking fish together fosters relationships, using fish for school lunch supports education, and selling fish for income contributes to economic security.

SPACES researchers also found that who is poor depends on how poverty is measured. In coastal Kenya, the people who are the wealthiest are not always better off in terms of meeting their basic needs or living in a better quality house. The team found that there is a difference between income and assets, and that income does not translate to assets.

When comparing sites in Kenya and Mozambique, the contribution of an ecosystem service to wellbeing is not necessarily related to the condition of the ecosystem. A high quality ecosystem does not benefit or contribute more to wellbeing than a low quality ecosystem. SPACES has found that access to ecosystem services contributes more to wellbeing than quality of the ecosystem. Access effects poverty more in the short term than a degraded ecosystem. For example, people who get the most money from reef fish are fishing in quite degraded sites like, while those who are fishing in the most pristine sites like Vamizi are the poorest. One reason for this is that the fishers in the pristine sites do not have access to a market to sell their fish.

SPACES researchers have also found that if you want to increase a fishers’ wellbeing it is not necessary to catch more fish.  It is instead important to look at how the money is distributed along the value chain and to look at how the money is being used.

SPACES has (2) built capacity between researchers at all levels. The project was an ongoing interaction between 39 academic researchers and 28 research staff, interns, and master’s students. SPACES ran team trainings on facilitation, fuzzy cognitive mapping, agent based modelling, and data collection and checking. Johnstone Omukoto from KMFRI visited UBC for training on modelling. The project also created jobs opportunities for the field teams in Kenya and Mozambique.

The project has (3) developed and applied novel methodologies and processes. The team has pushed the thinking and conceptualization on ecosystem services. SPACES introduced the question of ecosystem service elasticity, applied the reef budget methodology to the Western Indian Ocean, developed a basic needs methodology, and linked VCA to fisheries in the African context for the first time. The team also ran two innovative workshops with stakeholders that brought together fuzzy cognitive maps, scenarios, stress testing, and the seeds approach. In addition, SPACES has lead in depth community dialogues and 1-1 meetings to discuss key findings. Lastly, the team has developed the SPACES Data Explorer, which allows stakeholders to explore data on basic needs, ecosystem services, and access that can be used when planning development interventions.

SPACES (4) engaged with tens of stakeholders in both countries. SPACES had a focus on impact throughout the project. This has made the project less abstract and allowed it become more embedded in society, which has been one of its strengths. The team visited 16 organizations in Kenya and 6 in Mozambique in 1-1 meetings with stakeholders. SPACES facilitated discussions on the relationship between ecosystem service and wellbeing on multiple levels, facilitated networking between the levels, and the flow information between them as well.

The team’s data on mangroves has also be used in two projects that will continue past SPACES. In Tsunza, the local organization, Community Touch, used the data to apply for and receive funding for a community conservation project on mangroves. In Vanga, the successful project Mikiko Pamoja for offsetting carbon emission will be upscaled. SPACES baseline mangrove data was used in the Project Idea Note (PIN).

SPACES ran an evolutionary project in which the team was able to follow-up on ideas and expand on them through the addition of El Nino research, a repeat household survey to understand how the terrorism attack in Kenya in 2013 effected tourism, the community dialogues, and finally the development of SPACES Data Explorer.


A Guide to SPACES Data and Activities:

What is the state of the ecosystem?


Mangrove data has been used to quantify the transformations that occurred on mangroves in peri-urban and rural sites and used to compare the sites. The study shows how the existence of alternative livelihood and cultural habits can influence the condition and status of the ecosystems. The data shows that there are different patterns of use of mangrove woody resources, with the peri-urban community relying less on the mangrove resources, which leaves the forest in a better condition than the communities in rural settings. Main team members responsible are Celia Macamo (UEM), James Kairo (KMFRI), and Lilian Mwihaki (KMFRI).

For more information on mangrove data like publications, conference presentations, or news items click here


The surveys inform us about the abundance of the coral, algae, and fish communities on the reefs at the coral sites in Kongowea, Mkwiro, Vamizi, and Pemba. The data provides a measure of the stocks of many of the ecosystem service chains and allows us to interpret how human activity has impacted on ecosystem processes. From a fisheries perspective, it is a second way, along with the fish catch surveys, to assess the status and sustainability of local fisheries. The coral reef ecological surveys are being led by Tim McClanahan (WCS)  and Nyawira Muthiga (WCS)


The fish community is surveyed, using two methods along the same 100m long transects. The
first data gathered is an estimate of the biomass of fish that are present on the reef. This is
done along two 100m transects at each site, and all fish within 5 meters of the transect line
are identified to family, and their size estimated to the nearest 10cm. We can then use
published data on the relationship between fish weight and fish length to calculate how much
fish biomass is present on the reef. The second type of data gathered, is the diversity of fish on
the reef, collected by counting the number of fish present within 11 of the most important fish
families on coral reefs present along each transect for each species.


Coral abundance is collected using line intercept transects, where a 10m long tape is laid over the reef, and the amount of each type of coral, algae, or other substrate cover is measured. This is repeated 6-9 times to give an average amount of coral and algae cover on each reef.

Reef budget

The reef framework is a product of the growth of corals, and the erosion of the reef by parrotfish, urchins, and other organisms. The Reefbudget approach is a way to work out if the reef is growing or eroding. The carbonate budget surveys allow us to fill in many of the stock components of the ecosystem service chains and allow us to calculate some of the flows and estimates the goods, particularly in the chains that describe the benefits from beaches and coastal protection. The carbonate budget data contributes towards a system-dynamics model as well. Fraser Januchowski-Hartley is conducting the Reefbudget census.

For more information on ecological underwater surveys including publications, conference presentations, and news items click here


Landings data has been collected on how many people are fishing, how long they are fishing, what types of fishing gear and vessels they are using, and how much fish they are catching and of what size and species. This data covers the human inputs, goods, and valuation parts of the ecosystem service chains. This data collection was led by Caroline Abunge (WCS) and Johnstone Omukoto(KMFRI) in Kenya and vy Vera Julien (UEM), Almeida Guissamulo, and Isabel de Silva in Mozambique.

For more information on landings data including publications, conference presentations, and news items click here


Ecopath with Ecosim model is an ecosystem model made up of three main components. The first is Ecopath, a network definition tool that allows for the construction of static, mass-balanced snapshots of the network and biomass pools in an ecosystem (including fisheries fleets’ activities). The second component is Ecosim, which takes the Ecopath snapshot as an initial condition and then adds time-dynamic components to allow for simulations of scenarios and policy exploration. The third and which was beyond the scope of the current study is Ecospace, which adds a spatial dimension to the Ecosim simulations and is designed for exploring spatially explicit fisheries questions, such as the impact of fisheries management zones and protected areas.

The simulations allow us to understand how this fishery could be optimized to meet different fisheries goals such as (i) Optimum harvesting situation to maximize profit; (ii) Optimum harvesting situation to maximize employment; (iii) Optimum harvesting to maximize food production and (iv) business as usual. This work contributes to the SPACES objectives of understanding the fisheries in terms of the relationship between Stocks, Flows and Goods. William Cheung (UBC), Colette Wabnitz (UBC), and Johnstone Omukoto (KMFRI) are the SPACES team members involved in the modeling.

For more information on ecopath and ecoism modeling click here

Who benefits?


Value chain analysis tracks and calculates how much income is derived from the fishery or the mangrove forest in each community. We conducted interview with fishers, traders, and processing companies along with observations at landing sites and markets to get a better understanding of how a set of commodities flow from the point of extraction all the way to the end consumer, who benefits in this trade and opportunities for improvement in the chain. The commodities in focus are mixed reef fish (e.g. rabbitfish, grouper, goatfish), octopus, small pelagics, and mangrove poles.

The main team member responsible and other team members involved are Andrew Wamukota (WCS), Matilda Thyresson (SRC), Tim Daw (SRC), Beatrice Crona (SRC), Liz Drury O’Neil (SRC), Siran Offman (CEPAM), and Dominque Goncales (UEM).

Fisheries products

1.      Octopus

2.      Reef fish

3.      Small pelagic fish

Mangrove poles and firewood (Kenya only)

For more information on value chain analysis click here including publications, conference presentations, and news items. 


Household surveys were conducted by trained local enumerators in three rural coastal communities along the Kenyan coast between March and May 2014. The short period of data collection ensured all households were interviewed during the same season. The household survey gathered data on household income and four poverty dimensions coming from different disciplines and including both objective and subjective wellbeing: i) Household income (economics/objective) ii) Material Style of Life (livelihoods/objective) iii) Life satisfaction (psychology/subjective) and iv) Basic human needs (wellbeing/combination of objective and subjective). A randomly selected sample of 722 households was included in the survey.

However, to ensure representative within household variation of responses, we interviewed up to three people per household, including the household head, spouse and a randomly chosen third person aged 16 or above, resulting in a total of 847 interviews. All people were interviewed separately to avoid interference. In communities in which the density of fishing households (and thus the number of fisher interviews within the random sample) was low, fishers were oversampled with additional interviews with fishers in addition to the random household sample to ensure a number of fisher interviews were collected at all sites. Björn Schulte-Herbrüggen (SRC) led the household survey.

For more information on the household survey including publications, conference presentations, and news items click here


Focus groups were carried out to determine what the main access mechanisms are which can allow or prevent different people from obtaining benefits that the ecosystem can provide. This allows us to identify some of the main access mechanisms at play.

Click here to view publications, conference presentations, and news items related to access to ecosystem services. 

TOURISM DATA (Kenya only)

SPACES has carried out three tourism research activities. Tourism activities were conducted by Chris Sandbrook (Cambridge), Caroline Abunge (WCS), and Chris Cheupe (WCS).

Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) visitor data (Shimoni)

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) very generously gave SPACES staff access to tourism records kept in Shimoni, which provide data on all visitors to the nearby Kisite-Mpunguti Marine National Park. The data collected from KWS records are in the form of monthly counts of visitors in different categories. These categories are month, year, age class (adult / child), nationality class (Kenyan, foreign resident / foreign non-resident), and the type of boat that took the tourists on their trip to the marine park. The type of boat is important, because they represent very different types of tourism, each with different impacts for local people. There are two types of boats – company boats that are owned by large companies that provide a full range of services to tourists (minibus transfers, boat trips, restaurant meals, guiding etc.) and local boats that are owned by individuals that usually provide only the boat trip to tourists. The company boats are usually more expensive for tourists than the local boats. The data were collected for every month in 2011-2015. This covered a total of 216,274 tourists who visited the Kisite-Mpunguti during that 5 year period.

Value chain analysis (Shimoni- Wasini only)

We have mapped and analyzed the ‘value chain’ around tourist day trips to the Kisite Mpunguti
Marine Protected Areas on the coast of Kenya. This involved working out all of the different
individuals and organisations that provide goods and services to tourists for these trips, and
how much each of them gets from tourism. By looking as well at the identify and wellbeing
status of the beneficiaries and the factors that limit their ability to access benefits, we hope
to be able to make recommendations that can improve the positive impact of this tourism
activity for local people in the future.

Repeat household survey after tourism shock (Vanga, Mkwiro)

We are trying to understand the impact of a recent slump in tourist numbers on the Kenyan coast. This happened during the SPACES project as a consequence of concerns about security linked to terrorism. The situation is very unfortunate, but it does give us an unusual opportunity to make a before and after comparison to reveal the impact of the dramatic reduction in tourism activities for local livelihoods in an area that seems quite dependent on tourism. The household surveys that were previously conducted before the slump occurred have been repeated, so that we can understand the impact it has had, the coping strategies people have used, and how these might have impacted on the coastal ecosystem.

For more information on tourism data including publications, conference presentations, and news items click here

How do ecosystem services support wellbeing?


The wellbeing activities allow us to identify how ecosystem services contribute to wellbeing and to what extent. It also allows us to get a wider view of wellbeing by looking at subjective and relational forms of wellbeing and also non- ecosystem service specific aspects of wellbeing. Good relationships are essential for wellbeing. Ecosystem service derived benefits play an important role in maintaining these. Women and men perceive the way the benefit from ecosystem services derived benefits very differently. This activity was led by Tomas Chaigneau (Exeter).

Community profiles

Ecosystem services to wellbeing links (focus groups)

Focus groups are carried out to identify how various ecosystem service derived benefirts can contribute to wellbeing and how important these links are.

 In-depth interviews on satisfaction, relationships, aspirations

This activity involves carrying out in depth interviews with a subset of people that have been part of the household survey. We aim here to discuss their wellbeing by understanding what aspects of their lives are important to them, how satisfied they are with each aspect and their fears and hopes for the future. More specifically the respondents are asked to discuss how they benefit from various ecosystem services and how satisfied they are with the flow or the lack of flow of these benefits.

For more information on wellbeing data including publications, conference presentations, and news items click here

CULTURE & THE COAST (Kenya only)

There are three elements to the cultural services component of the spaces project. Christina Hicks, Caroline Abunge (WCS), Kate Brown (Exeter), Bjorn Schulte-Herbruggen (SRC), Amini Tengeza, and Jatieno Nyanpah (WCS) are the team members involved in this work

 In-depth interview, focus groups, and photovioce

We set out to explore the practices people engage in, the places they visit, and how the meanings
associated with these two aspects of coastal people’s lives contribute to their identities. This
work involved a series of in-depth interviews and focus groups, alongside a participatory
method whereby coastal residents were encouraged to take photographs of meaningful
aspects of their lives for discussion.

 Semi structured interviews with mapping exercise

We set out to establish how important respondents felt the identified cultural services
were and how they related to other ecosystem services (e.g. fishery) explored in the SPACES
project. We were particularly interested in where benefits were found, and the extent to which
respondents grouped, or separated the various benefits. This work involved a series of semi structured interviews with a mapping exercise in which we pulled out four key themes from
section one that reflects the cultural services coastal residents identify with.


To explore how the strength of peoples attachment to place, relates to their
subjective wellbeing, and to two very different cultural services (recreation and traditional
values) the data was collected through semi-structured interviews, as part of the
household surveys, and rolled out across over 800 households in 4 communities in both Kenya
and Mozambique. 

Click here for publications, conference presentations, and news items related to culture and the coast. 


With one of the strongest El Nino events on record predicted for 2015-16, a rapid response project (involving SPACES and CESEA projects) was commissioned by ESPA to analyse the multidimensional impacts of the 2015-16 El Niño on a social-ecological system in southern coastal Kenya. We developed new and drew upon existing social and biophysical data datasets. These include:

  • An adapted participatory climate vulnerability and capacity analysis that involved four workshops in the study sites of Shimoni, Vanga, Kongowea and Tsunza. The participatory tools – hazard matrix, seasonal calendars, historical timelines, venn diagrams - identified local level determinants of vulnerability based on people’s experiences of hazards and the El Nino effects
  • Key informant interviews with humanitarian NGOs, county government officials, and village level actors
  • At the household level (HHS1), we gathered data on the vulnerability context by asking specific questions about their socio-economic characteristics, the hazards that affect their family and livelihood, and how they deal with hazards
  • Secondary and digitised data on socio-economic, demographic and environmental change were collected to substantiate longer-term trends and stressors on the community
  • A census household survey (HHS2) was undertaken in three villages in Vanga to understand impacts on wellbeing and responses to an El Nino related flood event
  • To capture impacts on a marginalised group (Eriksen et al. 2005), interviews were also held with female-headed households living in a flood prone village of Jimbo 

Click here for publications, conference presentations, and news items on the impact of El Nino on wellbeing. 

What are policy and interventions for the future?


Policy analysis

14 Kenyan policy documents and 15 Mozambican policy documents related to coastal ecosystem services were reviewed. The documents were examined based on what extent the policies address sustainability of ecosystems, poverty, well-being, access to natural resources, needs and aspirations among different societal groups, and the trade-offs between the benefits derived by these groups.

Workshop 1

A two day stakeholder workshop linking poverty alleviation and sustainable coastal ecosystems was held in both Kenya and Mozambique. The workshop attracted experts in poverty alleviation and sustainable resource management from government, community organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and conservation and education sectors. The workshop aimed to engage stakeholder to collaboratively explore linkages between coastal poverty alleviation in the current social ecological system and in likely future systems. The principal tools used during the workshop were system diagram (current system) and exploratory narrative scenarios (future system).

Workshop 2

SPACES organized a three day workshop with the title “Using the future to make better decisions in the present” in both Kenya and Mozambique. The workshop gathered a wide range of organizations including experts in poverty alleviation and sustainable resource management from government, community organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and conservation and education sectors in coastal Kenya and Mozambique. The workshop aimed to 1) engaged stakeholders in the findings from the SPACES project, 2) explore how human wellbeing and ecosystem health might change in different  future scenarios, 3) identify interventions for poverty alleviation and sustainable ecosystem management and explore how they would work under different scenarios, and 4) identify existing initiatives that could change the course of the scenarios.

Community dialogues

Community dialogues have been conducted in all of the Kenyan sites and are currently underway in the Mozambican sites. The objective of the dialogues is twofold. The first objective is to share the findings with the communities in hope to stimulate conversation, understand the communities’ interpretations of the findings, and identify possible actions that can be taken in the communities and by development actors. The second objective is to reflect and learn from the dialogue experience and to continually improve the dialogues from site to site. In the end we hope to be able to provide recommendations to others who wish to share their findings with communities.

Carbon financing from Mangroves (Vanga only)

Click here for more information related to policy and interventions for the future. 

In the video, Professor Kate Brown introduces the SPACES aims and framework.