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Shaping sustainable models of development to preserve African wild spaces and unique biodiversity

Established in 2021 thanks to generous funding from the African Conservation Development Group, forestLAB is a research and innovation hub focused on conserving wild spaces and biodiversity in Africa. It brings together multidisciplinary expertise from LSE’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, the African Conservation Development Group, the University of Stirling and the National Scientific and Technological Research Centre in Gabon (CENAREST) to pioneer world-class models for landscape management that are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable.

Over the last year the team have spent time with local communities to identify and understand conservation and development issues. As a result, they have identified three main research themes to focus on:

  • Conservation Development and Behaviours: to explore the role of concessions in development, community forestry in Gabon, the practice of conservation as social action, and the impact of human-wildlife interactions.

  • Conservation Finance: to study voluntary carbon offset markets, geospatial data in financial applications, and finance and development in working forests.

  • Natural Capital: to look at forest policy evaluation in Gabon and Rwanda, and assess the value of Central African forests through natural capital accounting. 

Research projects developed so far have included small studies led by early career researchers and master’s students from Africa on topics such as community forestry, media perceptions of climate change and nature-based carbon offsets. These projects have given students the experience of working in a large interdisciplinary research team and access to mentoring opportunities, increasing in-country expertise and supporting the next generation of conservation-orientated researchers.

Over the next two years forestLAB will build on these strong foundations to translate academic excellence into real-world impact, from innovations in environmental practice and finance, to social development methodologies and economic models that will inform best practice and policymaking.