Southern African Program on Ecosystem Change and Society (SAPECS) is being developed as a transdisciplinary regional research program that aims to advance stewardship of social-ecological systems and ecosystem services in southern Africa.

Its main goal is to produce a body of empirical evidence and develope innovative, practical theory and tools to improve understanding of social-ecological systems and ecosystem services in the region and developing country contexts. In order to have a tangible effect change in the governance and management of social-ecological systems in the region SAPECS will actively work to mainstrean knowledge into policy and practice, and incorporate experiences from policy and practice into the programs scientific understanding. A long-term goal is to facilitate the growth of a the community of practice, including researchers, students and practitioners engaged in research and management of social-ecological systems and ecosystem services in the southern African region.

Key features

SAPECS builds on a range of on-going social-ecological projects and case studies in the southern African region. Most of these are currently located in South Africa, in the Southern Cape, Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga/Limpopo regions.These projects and case studies have their research focus round four key themes:

  1. Ecosystem services and human well-being, with an emphasis on poverty and inequality
  2. Governance and management institutions and practices
  3. Traps and transformations (emphasizing vulnerability and thresholds)
  4. Cross-scale connections and flows

The way in which we do our research will be a distinguishing feature of SAPECS. In particular, research within SAPECS will be characterized by transdisciplinary modes of collaborative research and training and with a large emphasis on mainstreaming and communication.

SAPECS will be primarily organized around a set of working groups that synthesize and cut across these individual projects and case studies. The intention is that SAPECS primarily serve as a platform to foster collaboration and knowledge-sharing and thereby help grow the community of practice and increase the potential for new synthetic insights. SAPECS community will actively link to and interact with other key research networks, professional societies, and forums in the region and internationally.

Led by

  • Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs (Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, Stellenbosch University, South Africa)
  • Belinda Reyers (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, Stellenbosch, South Africa)
Photo: Maike Hamann




WaterSES Water scarcity and governance across Social-Ecological Systems (WaterSES). WaterSES is an endorsed project [...]

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