The University of Stirling will receive around £390,000 as part of a new multi-million pound project aiming to make trade a positive force for both marginalised people and nature conservation.

Dr Katharine Abernethy, of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, will research the social, economic and environmental impacts of trade in wildlife and wild meat in Central Africa as part of a new project funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

Dr Abernethy said: “The harvesting of wildlife for subsistence is a critical part of rural food security in Central Africa and has been practised for millennia.

"However, hunting is sliding into unsustainability as illegal trade attracts hunters into commercialising meat.

"Trade in wildlife products is increasing demand, threatening species survival and often reducing the food security of local families as meat is traded to urban centres.

“Working alongside our long-term partners, the Institute for Tropical Ecology Research in Gabon, we look forward to carrying out new research into how rural households benefit economically from the wild meat market – but also how they may lose out socially and environmentally.

“Our research is designed in collaboration with our Gabon government partners, ensuring that the results will be used in improving management of hunting and trade – and ultimately securing both wildlife and rural wellbeing in the region.”

The trade of wild species and crops has incredible potential for creating long-term jobs and boosting economic growth, particularly in low and middle-income countries.

However, intensive use causes entire populations of animals or plants to crash, while demand for agricultural land for crops removes natural habitat for wildlife.

This degradation of nature has adverse consequences for marginalised people and decreases the likelihood of the world meeting its ambitions, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.

Led by the UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), the new project – entitled the UKRI GCRF Trade, Development and Environment Hub – is one of 12 research hubs funded by this year’s £200 million UKRI GCRF.

Over the next five years, it will trace the trade of wildlife, wild meat and agricultural goods from their origin in eight countries – Brazil, China, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Indonesia, Republic of Congo and Tanzania – and then throughout the entire world.

These results will be analysed within a global modelling framework to look at different possible trade futures and how these might benefit or impact marginalised people and nature. The Hub will also consider UK trade relations and dependencies – and how future decisions can be a positive force for sustainability.