Sophie Manson

Thesis title: Quantifying the ecosystem services provided by vertebrates within an agroforest environment in Java, Indonesia

Start year: 2021


Supervisor(s): Professor Anna Nekaris, Professor Vincent Nijman

Research topic

Vertebrate species provide key pollination, seed dispersal and pest control services in the tropics and help to produce economically important crops. With vertebrates pollinating 75% of these crops and providing seed dispersal services for 65 - 95% of woody plant species in tropical and sub-tropical Asia, they are globally significant contributors of ecosystem services and their decline would lead to major ecosystem change. Deforestation is the main driver of decline in vertebrate species which provide these services, leaving 16.5% of vertebrate pollinators threatened with extinction according to IUCN Red List assessments. As a result of farming intensification, deforestation has caused biodiversity loss and also negatively affected human welfare.

Indonesia has been deforested at a greater rate than any other country, with only 10% of Java’s original forest still intact. A fragmented habitat remains, with many isolated patches of forest, posing threats to critically endangered animals such as Javan slow lorises (Nycticebus javanicus), social primates with large home-ranges. In West Java, the landscape is dominated by smallholder farms, reducing connectivity within and between habitats. With reduced connectivity, arboreal animals are forced to go to the ground, leaving them vulnerable to predation, parasites and hunting. Agroforest environments protect biodiversity in areas of intensive farming by providing connections essential to movement and subsistence. Planting ‘living fences’ alongside farms allows wildlife to persist and even thrive. By providing corridors, home-ranges are preserved, and the provision of pollination, seed dispersal and pest control services by vertebrate species is encouraged.

Through my PhD, I am looking to quantify the importance of vertebrates in terms of the services they provide with the aim of allowing decision-makers to make informed choices regarding the value of natural land and promote conservation efforts of endangered species. Hunting and deforestation pose large threats to biodiversity in West Java. If the ecosystem services provided by wildlife are proven to be economically valuable, decision-makers will have more incentive to preserve land and in turn, the wildlife in it. Measuring how the local community benefits from the ecosystem services provided by a particular area of land is especially important. This will show how the livelihoods of local people are enhanced in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals.


Sustainability, Agroforestry, Ecosystem Services, South-East Asia, Wildlife-Friendly, Agriculture, Coffee

General research interests

Conservation biology, behavioural ecology, anthropogenic impact, sustainable development, sustainable agriculture

Academic school / department

School of Law and Social Sciences


  • In review: Campera, M., Budiadi, B., Adinda, E., Nabil, A., Balestri, M., Hedger, K., Imron, M. A., Manson, S. E. M., Nijman, V., Nekaris, K. A. I. (2020) Fostering a wildlife-friendly programme for sustainable coffee farming: the case of small-holder farmers in Indonesia.

Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

  • Little Fireface Project – Oxford Brookes Nocturnal Primate Research Group

Further details

Academic and professional training

  • MSci Zoology, 2:1 – University of Bristol

Other experience and professional activities

Following completing my Master’s research at the University of Bristol, I became Project Manager of the Limpopo Dwarf Mongoose Research Project (LDMRP) headed by Professor Andy Radford. This enabled me to pursue my passion for research whilst also acquiring valuable management skills.

Upon leaving my field post at the LDMRP, I continued to manage their database remotely whilst writing for publications such as and documenting local conservation efforts in newspapers during my time in New Zealand.

After I returned to the UK, I worked for Mindfully Wired Communications, a small but mighty communications team helping the UK fishing industry to better communicate their stories of sustainability. This taught me an enormous amount about communications and outreach and I consider this to be a crucial skill with the ever-increasing significance of social media.

Finally, my most recent post was working as Field Station Coordinator for the Little Fireface Project (LFP), a conservation-research project based in Java. Here, I was able to combine all the skills I had acquired in the years prior to successfully manage volunteers, staff and relationships with stakeholders and local communities. Here was where my passion for sustainability and conservation flourished and through the wildlife-friendly coffee programme, my PhD proposal was born.