Lisa Mandle
Ecosystem services, plant ecology & conservation

My research focuses on how land use and resource management practices affect the provision of ecosystem services and the distribution of these benefits across segments of society. I integrate field experiments, observational studies, and mathematical models, working at scales ranging from populations to communities to landscapes.
Here are some of my current lines of research:

Accounting for ecosystem services in infrastructure development, impact assessment and mitigation decisions

I am developing models and decision support tools to quantify the tradeoffs between development activities and ecosystem services, and to target mitigation activities to minimize tradeoffs among services and their impacts on human beneficiaries. In collaboration with colleages at the Natural Capital Project and The Nature Conservancy, I assessed how a proposed road through the Peruvian Amazon was likely to affect ecosystem services for local communities in Peru, and the degree to which impacts on these services could be mitigated through protection and restoration. We have developed a decision support software tool (MAFE-T) that will enables Colombia’s national licensing authority to conduct similar analyses for proposed infrastructure and other development projects to determine what mitigation activities should be required in order to meet the government’s environmental and social equity objectives. OPAL a generalized version of this tool for use beyond Colombia, is now also available.

Understanding compatibilities and tradeoffs between biodiversity conservation and human land use

Much of the world's remaining biodiversity exists outside of protected areas, in places that are managed for human use. Conserving biodiversity into the future while meeting the growing needs of human populations requires an understanding of what forms of human land use are compatible with biodiversity conservation, as well as how tradeoffs can be minimized. I study the effects of non-timber forest product (NTFP) harvest, anthropogenic fire and grazing by livestock and wild animals on the savanna woodland plant communities of the Western Ghats, India in order to understand tradeoffs between management practices aimed at promoting local benefits and maintenance of native plant diversity. I am collaborating with two Indian NGOs – Keystone Foundation and the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment.

Population dynamics and sustainable management of wild-harvested plants

Click here to view photos from this project.

I use field experiments and studies along with models of plant population dynamics to determine the environmental drivers of plant demography and the implications for sustainable management of wild-harvested plant species. I am especially interested in the interactions among drivers and their role in mediating the direct effects of harvest on plant populations. To date, I have focused primaily on the palm species, Phoenix loureiroi, which is harvested commercially by indigenous groups in South India to make brooms. I am using integral projection models (IPMs) based on experimental and observational data to determine the interactive effects of fire, harvest and grazing on palm population dynamics and the potential for sustainable harvest. This research is also being done in collaboration with Keystone Foundation and the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment