Julia Martin-Ortega's Lab

Featured projects (1)

In this project, an interdisciplinary research team covering the biological, environmental and socio-economic sciences aims to quantify the vulnerability of UK agriculture and the UK food system to a future P scarcity and assess the thresholds at which P scarcity might impact on agricultural production at farm, catchment and national scale. The work programme will develop and prioritise the adaptations that might overcome this vulnerability; for example through technological innovations to improve P use efficiency and reuse of secondary sources of P and the necessary institutional infrastructure to support these.

Featured research (15)

Phosphorus (P) is a critical natural resource for food production, but one that is subject to global supply vulnerabilities. P is also responsible for endemic eutrophication in waterbodies due to poor stewardship in the food chain. Catchments are natural social-ecologically bounded systems for P use in agriculture and water management. Stakeholders, such as farmers, water and sewerage service companies, local authorities, and environmental organisations mediate catchment adaptive capacity to P supply risks and P pollution in waterbodies. Adaptive capacity at this level has been insufficiently explored in addressing the P challenge, yet is essential to it. We address this gap by exploring through a qualitative study of stakeholders in two United Kingdom catchments. Our results suggest that the awareness and relevance of P-supply challenges is low in catchments, but the problem of waterbody vulnerability to excess P is of greater concern. Our findings highlight the roles in adaptive capacity of entrenched practices; knowledge and training activities and organisations; stakeholder cooperation and synergy; funding, infrastructure, and technology; the governance environment; and time needed to draw down P. We find that farmers and water companies are especially important to adaptive capacity as they directly interact with P flows. We therefore suggest that catchment adaptive capacity would be significantly improved through a well-supported, and expanded package of existing efforts such as providing scientific evidence of catchment P dynamics; training; payments; more empowered local governance. This effort would support catchment stakeholders to adopt effective P-stewardship practices within a multi-decade integrated catchment management strategy.
This article intervenes in the persistent hierarchy of epistemological worth that produces scientific knowledge as meaningful, and knowledge from arts or humanities as marginal, or illustrative. The specific trans-disciplinary project we discuss brings together environmental social sciences with performance-based Forum Theatre methods to explore ‘value’ as understood in communities in Tabasco and Chiapas, Mexico in relation to Payment for Ecosystem Services. We argue for engaging, community-based participatory methods that are forged with an understanding of research participants as holistic beings whose lifeworlds are embodied, experiential as well as culturally informed. Trans-disciplinary collaborations that seek to incorporate ‘novel’ methods to engage participants differently might better reflect the dynamic, emergent, and often shifting nature of beliefs, attitudes and values.
Food systems worldwide are vulnerable to Phosphorus (P) supply disruptions and price fluctuations. Current P use is also highly inefficient, generating large surpluses and pollution. Global food security and aquatic ecosystems are in jeopardy if transformative action is not taken. This paper pivots from earlier (predominantly conceptual) work to develop and analyse a P transdisciplinary scenario process, assessing stakeholders potential for transformative thinking in P use in the food system. Northern Ireland, a highly livestock-intensive system, was used as case study for illustrating such process. The stakeholder engagement takes a normative stance in that it sets the explicit premise that the food system needs to be transformed and asks stakeholders to engage in a dialogue on how that transformation can be achieved. A Substance Flow Analysis of P flows and stocks was employed to construct visions for alternative futures and stimulate stakeholder discussions on system responses. These were analysed for their transformative potential using a triple-loop social learning framework. For the most part, stakeholder responses remained transitional or incremental, rather than being fundamentally transformative. The process did unveil some deeper levers that could be acted upon to move the system further along the spectrum of transformational change (e.g. changes in food markets, creation of new P markets, destocking, new types of land production and radical land use changes), providing clues of what an aspirational system could look like. Replicated and adapted elsewhere, this process can serve as diagnostics of current stakeholders thinking and potential, as well as for the identification of those deeper levers, opening up avenues to work upon for global scale transformation.
Ecosystem degradation represents one of today’s major global challenges, threatening human well-being and livelihoods worldwide. To reverse continuing degradation, we need to understand its socio-economic consequences so that these can be incorporated into ecosystem management decisions. This requires links to be made between our understanding of how ecosystems function and change, with socially meaningful representations of those changes. While increasing attempts are being made at such integration, the interface or translation between those two strands remains largely undiscussed. This carries the risk that key aspects of the socio-ecological interactions become ‘lost in translation’. In this paper, we document and discuss how models of ecosystem change may be combined with socially meaningful outcomes exposing and discussing the translation process itself (i.e. the ‘translation key’). For this, we use an exemplar based on peatland condition. We employ a process-based model, DigiBog, to simulate the effects of land use on blanket peatlands, which we relate to estimates of changes to the public’s well-being derived from peatland degradation and restoration, obtained as monetary values from a choice experiment survey in Scotland (UK). By quantifying linkages between environmental conditions and social values, we make the translation between these system components transparent and allow value estimates to be recalculated under different ecological scenarios, or as new evidence emerges. This enhances the replicability of the research and can better inform decision-making. By using peatlands as the exemplar ecosystem, this paper also contributes to a limited body of evidence on the socio-economic impacts of changes to the most space-effective carbon store in the terrestrial biosphere.
Ecosystem restoration and, in particular, peatland restoration, are considered a promising greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation strategy to move towards net zero emissions. To remain within acceptable limits for projected warming scenarios, inaction with respect to GHG mitigation in the short term implies a need for even larger removals of GHGs in the longer term, which can be conceptualized as a ‘mitigation debt’. This paper explores the economic implications of delaying GHG mitigation through ecosystem restoration using data of a large survey (N=1,377) that included a choice experiment to elicit the public’s willingness to pay (WTP) for peatland restoration in Scotland, UK. The valuation specifically considers the interaction between the timing of restoration action and long-term ecosystem resilience. We find that respondents have a substantial WTP for peatland restoration. Importantly, we find considerable benefits for early restoration action (up to £191 million annually in our case study), which is linked to an increased resilience of peatlands under future climate change. This demonstrates that delaying restoration and thus accumulating a mitigation debt has an important opportunity cost that substantially decreases the related economic benefits. Attitudes towards climate change and climate change beliefs are found to explain variation in the public’s WTP. Our research strengthens the economic argument for not delaying climate change mitigation through ecosystem restoration, demonstrating that the mitigation debt also translates into a welfare loss. To fully realise the potential benefits associated with immediate mitigation using peatland restoration, however, more needs to be understood about the mechanisms that facilitate large-scale implementation in practice.

Lab head

Julia Martin-Ortega
  • Sustainability Research Institute
About Julia Martin-Ortega
  • Julia’s research focuses on the relationships between society and water systems, and has a strong interdisciplinary and policy-relevance emphasis. Main research lines: 1) How to assess the impacts of changes in water systems on human welfare. 2) How economic tools and principles can best be applied to attain sustainable water management. 3) How changes in the provision of ecosystem services compromise the capacity of communities to use and enjoy them and how they adapt to these changes.

Members (7)

Murat Okumah
  • United Nations Development Programme
Emmanouil Tyllianakis
  • University of Leeds
Marie Ferré
  • Cirad - La recherche agronomique pour le développement
Teodor Kalpakchiev
  • University of Leeds
Joseph Hamm
  • University of Leeds
Silvia Olvera-Hernandez
  • University of Leeds
Harrie Mort
  • University of Leeds