The Hwange LTSER hosts a long-term interdisciplinary research project to understand the dynamics of a savanna socio-ecosystem, Hwange National Park (~ 15000 km²) and its periphery, located on the western border of Zimbabwe. This system, characterized by important environmental and societal changes, is part of the largest transboundary conservation area in the world, KAZA TFCA (Kavango-Zambezi Trans-Frontier Conservation Area).
In order to contribute to a better conservation-development interface, the research programme conducted in Hwange (initially known as the HERD programme) focuses on the interactions between the near-natural ecosystem and the human society. Benefiting from more than 20 years of experience, this programme was awarded the status of a “Zone Atelier” (France’s Long Term Socio-Ecological Research) by the INEE (Institute for Ecology and Environment of the CNRS) in 2011. The programme has two main objectives:
1. In a context of global change and erosion of biodiversity, we aim at understanding the responses of a savanna ecosystem, particularly its exceptional diversity of large mammals, to climate change and anthropogenic pressure for a better management / conservation of natural communities, and ultimately for a better ecosystem functioning.
2. In a socio-ecosystem comprising a protected area and subject to climatic uncertainties and major societal changes, we seek to understand how conservation areas can provide and sustain services to the entire socio-ecosystem, and hence allow a better coexistence between the protected area and its periphery.