Ecosystems and Human Well-being

Ecosystem health and the continuous flow of ecosystem services are crucial for the well-being of the present and future generations. Ecosystems support basic biological and socio-economic necessities – clean air and water, the means to produce food, fibre and medicine, fuel for energy and provision of cultural opportunities and contexts. However, current anthropogenic pressures such as reckless natural resource extraction and fossil energy conversion have created imbalances in ecosystems at the global and local levels. Understanding the biophysical basis of ecosystem functioning and the consequences of its degradation on basic human well-being is a crucial task. This programme seeks to explore, understand and communicate the complexity of these services and their relationship to our well-being, their co-production and their implications for environmental justice and sustainable ecosystems. We strive to ensure our work is guided by theoretical rigour and standardised methods and approaches while also ensuring the knowledge generated is applied to address key issues negatively impacting ecosystems and human well-being.


  • Identifying ecological, political and socio-economic mechanisms that interact to create and sustain ecosystem services across ecosystems in India.
  • Analysing the interactions between ecosystem services and aspects of human well-being.
  • Developing demonstrable strategies to restore disrupted ecosystem services.
  • Identifying mechanisms to build resilience to climate change and environmental stressors to sustain ecosystem services and human well-being.

Research Questions

  • How do changes in ecosystems and society mutually influence each other? Which of these disrupts ecosystem services and well-being?
  • How can plural and economic valuation of ecosystem services be reconciled to deliver effective pathways for decision-making?
  • From a human well-being perspective, what valuable livelihood choices do ecosystems enable, and how do communities and households differ in their capabilities to convert services or resources into valuable functioning?
  • How do development and conservation aspirations of different communities influence ecosystem health?
  • What are the agroecological and market-driven barriers to widespread adoption of sustainable production systems?
  • What are the metrics and outcomes of socio-ecologically responsible restoration? How can technology democratise ecosystem restoration?
  • How can human and ecosystem vulnerabilities to climate and non-climate stressors be mitigated by building resilient systems?

Alignment with India’s international commitments

A realisation of the objectives of this programme will contribute to India meeting its commitments to:

  • The Paris Agreement 2015 (seeking to strengthen the global response to climate change, reaffirms the goal of limiting global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursuing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees).
  • The Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework 2022 (Targets 2, 3, 4, 11, 14).
  • The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2018 (Targets 15.1, 15.3, 15.4, 15.5, 15.9).
  • The Bonn Challenge Pledge (restoring 26 M Ha of degraded land).