LiveDiverse Methodology

The analysis of biodiversity values, sustainable use and livelihoods (biodiversity governance) within the project adopts vulnerability as a unifying concept. This combination of perspectives represents a major step forward in vulnerability studies. A forthcoming review of EU funded research states that out of a total of 48 projects on water management, only a minority appeared to have some interest in vulnerability and even fewer systematically targeted the concept and its different interpretations. Most of the projects that did mention or deal with vulnerability followed the dominant view according to which vulnerability equals exposure to the natural event whereas other dimensions are ignored. In fact, the review identified only two projects that offered or promised a more integrated view of the subject, incorporating especially the human and social dimensions (David Sauri, ‘Vulnerability and exposure to shocks and stresses in river basins: a review of EU research and some avenues for the future’, (commissioned Newater project report). UNEP has defined human vulnerability as ‘the interface between exposure to the physical threats to human well-being and the capacity of people and communities to cope with those threats’ (UNEP GEO3).

In LiveDiverse vulnerability analyses will take their point of departure in the concepts of biodiversity and livelihood vulnerability. Vulnerability will be considered from a combination of bio-physical, socio-economic and cultural perspectives, where human ability to conserve and husband biodiversity while at the same time achieving sustainable livelihoods is of vital importance. The chart below shows one of the points of departure for LiveDiverse; however, the project will innovatively also include cultural/spiritual vulnerability and diversity into the framework for analysis. The ecological criteria, needs and threats to biodiversity are relatively well-known, and in many places data exists on this aspect of biodiversity. Much less is known about other aspects of sustainability, such as socio-economic sustainability, which includes livelihoods, especially for rural populations, and cultural, social, and spiritual aspects. LiveDiverse will increase knowledge of all of these aspects through an integrated study of the ecological, socio-economic and cultural/spiritual vulnerability of aquatic and riparian biodiversity in 4 case studies. These are presented in the appendix and will be:

1. The Ba Be / Na Hang Conservation Complex in northern Vietnam;
2. The Western Ghats in India
3. The Terraba River basin in Costa Rica
4. The Greater Kruger Area in South Africa

Exiting studies of biodiversity, public perceptions, and conflict reconciliation in the EU partner countries will be used as reference data. The focus of the empirical work will however be on the case studies in the international cooperation countries. As LiveDiverse will concentrate on the development of an innovative approach case areas have been chosen where there is already some existing information. LiveDiverse case areas are riparian and aquatic; the motivation for limiting the studies of biodiversity and livelihood to aquatic and riparian environments are the following:

  • Threats to sustainable livelihoods are often most acute where conflicting interests exist over water and in riparian areas.
  • Riparian areas often play a dominant role in supporting a diversity of species. • Water is a basic necessity for rural marginalised populations and without access to water sustainable livelihoods cannot exist.
  • Water is necessary for irrigation, fish production and household needs in rural marginal areas, while at the same time competing interests from energy production, urban areas, industrial use and last but not least biodiversity needs, result in conflicts over water use.
  • In-depth studies of all three aspects of biodiversity vulnerability necessitate a spatial and ecological focus. By concentrating on water, that is, on water courses, lakes and their closest environs.
  • LiveDiverse will be able to conduct thorough studies of the interaction of ecological, socio-economic and cultural aspects of biodiversity and livelihood vulnerability. International law and policy – such as the EU WFD, EU Water Initiative, Dublin Principles, Agenda 21 – has recognised that the river basin is the most appropriate level in which to link social and economic development with the protection of natural ecosystems and biodiversity through catchment management of both land and water interactions.

The overlying methodology for the project can be exemplified in the following way. A region may be faced with significant problems of biodiversity loss, yet because of a good economy, competent management systems, and political will, the potential threats can be managed without major problems for the population. On the other hand, biodiversity in an area may be considered less threatened than in the first example, yet constitute a much larger challenge if the area does not have the capacity to respond to such threats in an equitable and sustainable manner. A third form of vulnerability focuses on areas which are considered sensitive and valuable from a cultural/spiritual perspective; for example, in parts of the world trees, water bodies, mountains etc. are seen as vitally important from a religious and cultural perspective. Three forms of vulnerability assessment therefore need to be considered, and to be combined to produce an integrated biodiversity analysis. These are:

i) A bio-physical analysis of the case area through which biological diversity can be assessed;

ii) A livelihood (socio-economic) analysis, though which human capacity to both manage biodiversity threats while at the same time providing livelihoods for the local population, is assessed

iii) A cultural/spiritual analysis, through which human perceptions of the cultural/spiritual value of biodiversity are assessed.

The bio-physical based analysis (i) of vulnerability will involve the evaluation of existing data on areas considered vulnerable according to natural science criteria. Key variables here include land use, land cover and topography, the location of nature protection areas, data on biological diversity and non-human population levels, existing species and existing and possible future threats. The livelihood (socio- economic) vulnerability assessment (ii) involves an assessment of population of the region, including ethnic groups; administrative divisions and maps; education levels and training programmes; economy (distribution of wealth and income, employment); literacy; urban-rural divisions; economic policies; ownership patterns; activities of civil society (levels of participation); infrastructure (roads, trains, canals, river navigation); possible future developments; recreation and tourism. An analysis of the relevant laws and policies – as well as the mechanisms in place to implement such instruments – also forms part of the livelihood vulnerability assessment. Here existing data will be complemented by research activities that will result in identification of areas that are vulnerable from a livelihood perspective.


Vulnerability and Hazard: An integration perspective Source: Pelling 2002, p. 182

Therefore, while ecological and livelihood assessments are necessary, they are not sufficient to allow the formulation of strategies that take into account the role of values in biodiversity management. The third assessment will be therefore be based on the identification of the main areas of cultural and spiritual concern, and will include studies of public beliefs, perceptions, attitudes and preferences regarding biodiversity and drivers of biodiversity change. Through individual and group discussions and interviews, existing ‘mind maps’ of these areas of concern will be constructed, and compared with the areas of concern produced in the other two vulnerability assessments.