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IIS executive director awared with Royal Society Newton Advanced Fellowship

Agnieszka Latawiec, executive Director of IIS, was awarded with the Royal Society Newton Advanced Fellowship for her project “Sustaining the land from the ground up: developing soil carbon and soil ecosystem services valuation frameworks for tropical soils”. It is the first time that a researcher from a Brazilian institution receives this award, from the oldest scientific academy in the world in action, based in the United Kingdom. In addition to Agnieszka, the scholarship will also allow the research assistant Aline Rodrigues to develop her research in partnership with leading environmental research centers such as the School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia; and the Universities of Cambridge and Aberdeen.

“It is a great surprise and honor to receive this award. We applied for the first time for such a contested prize and we thought this would probably be the first attempt of several. I am very happy that we have succeeded and can also offer, as part of this project, an exchange for my reseach assistant. We will organize workshops both scientific – aimed at researchers – and technical – for land owners – to show the importance of soil science to the functionality of our ecosystems, food chain and sustainable land management. The project also aims to demonstrate the monetary value of the soil and highlight how much money we all lose each time the soil becomes degraded because of inadequate treatment”, emphasizes Agnieszka.

About the research – Soils provide the base for food production and help controlling harmful consequences of climate change through regulation of greenhouse gases and water. However, soil remains an overlooked resource by governments and consequently understanding of soil value by the farmers and decision makers is undermined. We will analyse soil data from Brazil and propose soil valuation approaches to be used by farmers and policy makers to better manage soil resources. Brazil, with its abundance of agricultural areas and tropical forests is an important country for both global food security and climate regulation. The vast areas of this precious forest underwent deforestation while agricultural areas suffered from over-exploitation that led to degradation. For example, the majority (75%) of areas under pastures are degraded and cattle ranching is a principal agricultural activity in the country (also for exports to Europe). We will present the value of soil to farmers and to decision-makers and help them understanding how different soil management practices impact upon the environment. We will also organize meetings with the farmers where, through board games, we will train them to better calculate soil ecosystem services and increase their profits. For a developing country, in which farmers often strive to make profit it is an important contribution to farmers’ welfare. Improving the understanding of the value of soil ecosystem services is not only important for improving the local livelihoods in Brazil but also for global community. Brazil is a principal food exporter and healthy soils in Brazil mean better global food security.

“This project is also an opportunity to show how the physical and human sciences should talk and collaborate so that the benefits of better use of the land are applied in practice,” explains the executive director who is still a professor of the Department of Geography and Environment of PUC -Rio and coordinator of the Center for Conservation and Sustainability Sciences of Rio (CSRio), a body linked to the university.