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Research Institute for the Environment and Livelihoods

Ecosystem Services

Research group


aerial view of a long bend in a river with trees on the bank and open forest in the distance, mud-coloured treeless plain on the right hand side

Our research aims to assess the importance of natural resources for human well-being, applying various ecological economics approaches. We undertake trans-disciplinary research focusing on, and integrating various socio-economic, cultural and ecological aspects, particularly for the Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs). The key areas include:

  • Ecosystem Services (ES) approaches, assessment and valuation
  • Understanding and highlighting the role of natural systems (& their services) for human wellbeing particularly, for Indigenous and local communities;
  • Assessing the value of especially non-monetary (& monetary) ES to inform policy decision-making;
  • Developing Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) mechanisms for local and Indigenous communities;
  • Sustainable natural resource management by integrating socio-economic and ecological perspectives;
  • Understanding the role of 'country' for the well-being of Indigenous peoples through evaluating marketable (tangible) and non-marketable (intangible) benefits;
  • Assessing the 'true value' of the small-scale agricultural systems to promote and support sustainable local economies;
  • Informing and advocating for transitioning towards developing local, and sustainable economies

Specialist expertise

  • Ecological Economics – learning in a trans-disciplinary space
  • Ecosystem Services valuation assessments—applying local and Indigenous perspectives
  • Integrating Socio-economic and Ecological aspects —informing policy decision-making
line of small fires in middle distance, black ground in foreground with small unburnt tree in centre foreground and trees in background

Meet the team

Why this research is important

This trans-disciplinary research helps to understand nature's role in people's well-being, and how our day-to-day life is dependent on nature and its services (called ecosystem services). Assessing the value of nature's services, applying monetary and non-monetary techniques, helps inform the policy decision-makers to develop policies and programs that promote sustainable economies. Understanding nature’s role in rural economies is particularly important for Indigenous and local communities across the globe whose living is dependent on the use and management of natural resources. The ES concept extends the idea of connecting nature and people’s well-being (which is much broader than just meeting the livelihoods demands).

An important part of our research is about developing Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) that helps to offer incentivised mechanisms for supporting many Indigenous peoples and local communities to continue the flow of ES that support well-being of wider human populations.

four dark coloured cattle with short horns standing in dirt road with forest next to road

Key achievements & impacts

Our trans-disciplinary approach highlights the Indigenous peoples and local communities' connections with nature, and the non-monetary (& monetary) values of such connections to suggest the importance of nature for enhancing people's well-being and addressing Sustainable Development Goals.

We work collaboratively with Indigenous peoples and local communities to bring change for betterment.

We have attracted several national and international research grants, and postgraduate scholars.

At international levels, we are part of several initiatives currently led by the IPBES and IUCN.

Group photo of about 35 people, some sitting on chairs, some sitting on the ground, and some standing. Tree trunk and green leafy bushes in background

Some current and past Projects

Developing ecosystem services based economic opportunities for Indigenous communities in northern Australia

Funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC DP)

This project aims to advance economic opportunities for Indigenous communities across Northern Australia by developing culturally appropriate ES economies. We will co-develop an inclusive ES business model, in collaboration with Indigenous and business stakeholders, including an integrated set of indicators, measures and assessment tools, accounting for a diverse range of ES from the current state of Indigenous estates (i.e. undisturbed and disturbed), befitting Indigenous and business contexts.

Developing PES economies in Northern Australia

Funded by WWF Australia

This project complements the ARC DP project to develop PES economies in northern Australia, in collaboration with the WWF team working globally.

Situational analysis of the horticulture sector across northern Australia

Funded by the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRC NA)

Developing Innovative economic opportunities through sharing sustainable farming systems knowledge

Funded by DFAT, Australia

This project focused on knowledge exchange between Indian and Australian farmers.

Scenario planning for remote community risk management in northern Australia

We worked on investigating and finding ways how to empower remote Indigenous communities to manage natural hazards and engage with the emergency management settings.

Some recent publications

Sangha, K. K., Ahammad, R., Mazahar, M. S., Hall, M., Owens, G., Kruss, L., Verrall, G., Moro, J. & Dickinson, G. 2022. An Integrated Assessment of the Horticulture Sector in Northern Australia to Inform Future Development. Sustainability, 14, 11647.

Sangha, K.K., Gordon, I.J., Costanza, R., 2022. Ecosystem Services and Human Wellbeing-Based Approaches Can Help Transform Our Economies. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10.

Russell-Smith, J., James, G., Dhamarrandji, A.M., Gondarra, T., Burton, D., Sithole, B., Campion, O.B., Hunter-Xenie, H., Archer, R., Sangha, K.K., Edwards, A.C., 2022. Empowering Indigenous natural hazards management in northern Australia. Ambio.

Ralaingita, M.I., Ennis, G., Russell-Smith, J., Sangha, K., Razanakoto, T., 2022. The Kere of Madagascar: a qualitative exploration of community experiences and perspectives. Ecology and Society 27 (1).

Kegamba, J.J., Sangha, K.K., Wurm, P., Garnett, S.T., 2022. A review of conservation-related benefit-sharing mechanisms in Tanzania. Global Ecology and Conservation 33 e01955.

Hernández-Blanco, M., Costanza, R., Chen, H., deGroot, D., Jarvis, D., Kubiszewski, I., Montoya, J., Sangha, K., Stoeckl, N., Turner, K., van ‘t Hoff, V., 2022. Ecosystem health, ecosystem services, and the well-being of humans and the rest of nature. Global Change Biology.

Coyne, C., Williams, G., Sangha, K.K., 2022. Assessing the Value of Ecosystem Services From an Indigenous Estate: Warddeken Indigenous Protected Area, Australia. Frontiers in Environmental Science 10.

Connor, J.D., Hill, D., Gregg, D., Sangha, K.K., 2022. Review of the Singleton Horticulture Project’s water entitlement provision costs, benefits and employment impacts. University of South Australia, SA, A report commissioned by the Central Land Council, NT, p. 34.

Sangha, K.K., Russell-Smith, J., Edwards, A.C., Surjan, A., 2021. Assessing the real costs of natural hazard‑induced disasters: A case study from Australia’s Northern Territory. Natural Hazards 1-20.

Sangha, K.K., Evans, J., Edwards, A., Russell-Smith, J., Fisher, R., Yates, C., Costanza, R., 2021. Assessing the value of ecosystem services delivered  by prescribed fire management in Australian tropical savannas. Ecosystem Services 51 (101343).

Sangha, K.K., Edwards, A., Rioli, W., 2021. Indigenous expertise is reducing bushfires in northern Australia. It’s time to consider similar approaches for other disasters. URL:, The Conversation.

Sangha, K.K., 2021. Fire, tsunami, pandemic: how to ensure societies learn lessons from disaster. URL:, in: Ware, G. (Ed.), The Conversation Weekly.

Sangha, K.K., 2021. The biggest peaceful protest against corporations in human history—Daring farmers of India. Journal of Agriculture and Ecology Research International, 22 (6), 1-8. URL:

Sangha, K.K., 2021. Cultural Ecosystem Services—Key to Address Pressing Environmental Concerns of Climate Change and Biodiversity Decline. Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences. Elsevier.

Sangha, K.K., 2021. Indigenous expertise is reducing bushfires in northern Australia. It’s time to consider similar approaches for other disasters. URL:, in: Patch, B. (Ed.), BNHCRC Blog Posts. BNH CRC.

Russell-Smith, J., Sangha, K.K., Edwards, A.C., 2021. Building collaborative emergency management capacity in northern Australia, BNHCRC Hazard Note (94). Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC, p. 4.

Dawson, N.M., Coolsaet, B., Sterling, E.J., Loveridge, R., Gross-Camp, N.D., Wongbusarakum, S., Sangha, K.K., Scherl, L.M., Phan, H.P., Zafra-Calvo, N., Lavey, W.G., Byakagaba, P., Idrobo, C.J.n., Chenet, A., Bennett, N.J., Mansourian, S., Rosado-May, F.J., 2021. The role of Indigenous peoples and local communities in effective and equitable conservation. Ecology and Society 26 (3).

Balasubramanian, M., Sangha, K.K., 2021. Integrating Capabilities and Ecosystem Services Approaches to evaluate Indigenous connections with nature in a global biodiversity hotspot of Western Ghats, India. Global Ecology and Conservation e01546.

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