Award fuels sustainability

29 October 2012

Research on sustainability assessment has won honour for James Martin Fellow, Alexandros Gasparatos of the Biodiversity Institute.

Alex was selected by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, (BMBF) as a winner of their 2012 ‘Green Talents’ competition. This international forum rewards high potential in sustainable development.

Selected from over 400 applications, Alex’s work has been in developing mechanisms for measuring and evaluating ecosystem services, which include everything from food and bioenergy supply to carbon sequestration, soil erosion protection, and freshwater purification.

The jury was impressed by Alex's exhaustive research in ecosystem services and biodiversity, noting his application of the ecosystem service approach to his investigations of the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of energy crop cultivation.

Alex’s current research at the Biodiversity Institute explores how the ecosystem services approach can be used to frame, assess and convey the direct and indirect impact of biofuel production. His work, which includes case studies on jatropha landscapes in southern Africa, and sugarcane production in Sao Paolo State, has significant applied components.

“Such assessment tools could be used by the private sector to evaluate biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides in different bioenergy landscapes around the world,” explains Alex. “Understanding and conveying the multi-faceted role of biodiversity for human well-being is key in facilitating green economic transitions.”

German Federal Minister Dr. Annette Schavan, the patron of the Green Talents programme, presented the awards on October 23rd. As part of his prize, Alex has been taking part in a two-week research tour in Germany, meeting experts from academia, industry and science institutes as well as contributing to the ongoing scientific discussion at the 9th Forum for Sustainability (FONA) in Berlin.

Recent publications by Alexandros Gasparatos:

Socioeconomic and Environmental Impacts of Biofuels (Cambridge University Press)
Biofuel production has increased fivefold in the past decade and is expected to further double by 2020. Most of this expansion will happen in developing nations. This volume provides a comprehensive overview of the biofuel debate in developing countries. The book covers impacts as diverse as air pollution, biodiversity loss, deforestation, energy security, food security, greenhouse gas emissions, land use change, rural development, water consumption and other socioeconomic issues. Its wide focus accommodates examples from countries in Africa, America and Asia.

Biofuels in Africa: Impacts on Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity and Human Well-being
Biofuel production and use in Africa have been linked to numerous environmental and socio-economic impacts such as GHG/atmospheric pollutant emissions, increased water use, water pollution, soil erosion, deforestation, biodiversity loss, income/employment generation, energy security, food security, human health and social conflicts. Whether these impacts are positive or negative depends on a multitude of factors such as the feedstock, the environmental/socio-economic context of biofuel production, and the policy instruments in place during biofuel production, use and trade. This report discusses a wide array of these impacts, as they relate to jatropha and sugarcane landscapes in Africa.

Photo © 2012, FONA - Research for Sustainability