Stephen Morse

Professor Stephen Morse

Chair in Systems Analysis for Sustainability
+44 (0)1483 686079
14 BA 02
Personal tutees: Wednesdays from 12.00-13.00

Academic and research departments

Centre for Environment and Sustainability.


Affiliations and memberships

Higher Education Academy
Royal Geographical Society
Royal Society of Biology
Royal Society of Biology
Chartered Biologist (CBiol)


Research interests

Research collaborations

My teaching

My publications


Morse S., McNamara, N., Adamu S., Nathan N, Adedipe Y, Kabir M, Onwuaroh A and Otene N. (2020). Social Networks and Food Security in the Urban Fringe. Part of the ‘Urban Perspectives from the Global South’ series. Springer Nature, Cham, Switzerland.

The book explores how social groups in the urban fringe of Abuja, Nigeria, engaged with a series of development projects spanning 15 years (2003 to 2018) which focused on the enhancement of food security for farming households. The groups were at the heart of these development projects and the book presents the many insights that were gained by farmers and project agents working within these partnerships and provides advice for those seeking to do the same. The book also explores how the social groups attempted to lever benefits from being near to the fastest growing city in Africa and a centre of economic and political power. While much has been written about social groups and their embeddedness within wider social networks in Africa and in other parts of the world, the exploration of the role of social groups within development projects is an area that remains relatively unchartered and this book seeks to fill that important gap in knowledge. It provides an important contribution for all those researching and working with social groups in the developing world

Morse S. (2019). The Rise and Rise of Indicators: Their History and Geography. Routledge, London. ISBN 9780415786812

This book makes indicators more accessible, in terms of what they are, who created them and how they are used. It examines the subjectivity and human frailty behind these quintessentially ‘hard’ and technical measures of the world. To achieve this goal, The Rise and Rise of Indicators presents the world in terms of a selected set of indicators. The emphasis is upon the origins of the indicators and the motivation behind their creation and evolution. The ideas and assumptions behind the indicators are made transparent to demonstrate how changes to them can dramatically alter the ranking of countries that emerge. They are, after all, human constructs and thus embody human biases. The book concludes by examining the future of indicators and the author sets out some possible trajectories, including the growing emphasis on indicators as important tools in the Sustainable Development Goals that have been set for the world up until 2030. This is a valuable resource for undergraduate and postgraduate students in the areas of economics, sociology, geography, environmental studies, development studies, area studies, business studies, politics and international relations.

McNamara N and Morse S. (2018). Food Most Royal - Nurture for Posterity. On-Stream Publications, Cork, Ireland. ISBN: 9781897685518

Food security is a term that is hardly on the tips of most people’s tongues, especially those living in the Northern Hemisphere. But while the term may be unfamiliar, we can all recognise the outcomes of its opposite – food insecurity – namely, hunger, food banks and crop contamination. This book is about how we can work towards growing enough for everyone, available at the right quality and an affordable price. While food’s cultural significance is not always fully appreciated, most eating habits are strongly cultural, with indigenous foods prepared and presented in many ways. Can you imagine Ireland without the potato, or China without rice? The authors explore many aspects of food security within the context of a single African crop of major cultural significance — the white yam. Food Most Royal is a tribute to those who have worked for over four decades with a crop they cherish. It aims to encourage others to value food resources as a key element in preserving our environment.

Zhang D, Morse S and Kambhampati U. (2018). Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility. Routledge, Abingdon, Oxon. 259 pages. ISBN: 978-1-138-81043-3 (hbk), ISBN: 978-1-138-81044-0 (pbk), ISBN: 978-1-315-74949-5 (ebk)

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become an important concept in the last few decades. Although it originated in the developed countries of the West, the concept has been embraced and adapted by corporations and policy-making agencies in many developing countries. Not surprisingly, given the importance of growth and development as policy objectives in these countries, CSR has had a significant impact on sustainable development. Sustainable Development and Corporate Social Responsibility explores the evolution of CSR across the developed and developing world, with a particular focus on China and sustainable development. Through an extensive review of the literature and relevant case studies, the book examines whether CSR can make a contribution to sustainable development, how the patterns of CSR in developed Western economies compare to that in the rapidly growing economy of China, what trade-offs take place between CSR and economic growth as well as the future of CSR and its possible impact on the global sustainable development agenda. This book is a valuable resource for academics and upper-level undergraduate and postgraduate students in the fields of human/social geography, economics, business studies, sustainable development, development studies and environmental studies.

Bell S and Morse S. (eds) (2018). Routledge Handbook of Sustainability Indicators and Indices. Routledge, London. ISBN (hbk): 978-1-138-674769 ISBN: 978-1-315-561103 (ebk).

This handbook provides researchers and students with an overview of the field of sustainability indicators (SIs) as applied in the interdisciplinary field of sustainable development. The editors have sought to include views from the centerground of SI development but also divergent ideas which represent some of the diverse, challenging and even edgy observations which are prominent in the wider field of SI thinking.


Morse S and McNamara N. (2020). Pesticide residues in seed yams produced using the adaptive Yam Minisett Technique. Journal of Crop Improvement 34(5), 644-653
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This paper provides the results of the first research designed to test for pesticide residue analysis conducted on seed yam ( Poir) tubers produced via the Adaptive Yam Minisett technique (AYMT). AYMT uses a pesticide-based water dip to treat setts (~75 g) cut from a yam tuber, and these setts are planted to produce healthy seed yams. While the dip is known to be effective in terms of sett survival in the field along with quantity and yield of seed yams produced, one potential issue is the carry-over of chlorpyrifos from treated setts into the seed yams. The research reported here describes the results from an experimental plot established in the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria designed to address this issue. A total of 54 seed yam tubers (18 seed yams from each plot) were analyzed from control (untreated), half-dose and full-dose pesticide dip treatments and results show that there is no carryover of chlorpyrifos from treated setts into the seed yams. There may also be potential to significantly reduce pesticide concentration in the dip, although this requires further research before a new recommendation can be developed.
Dioscorea rotundata
Zhang D, Hao M, Chen S and Morse S (2020). Solid Waste Characterization and Recycling Potential for a University Campus in China. Sustainability 12(8), 3086
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Waste characterization is the first step to a successful waste management system. This paper explores the trend of solid waste generated on a university campus (Longzi Lake Campus of Henan Agricultural University) in China and the factors that influence the potential for recycling of the waste. Face-to-face interviews were carried out for 12 consecutive months on a campus in central China, and 416 interviewees were questioned. It was found that 7.32 tonnes of solid waste were generated on the campus each day, of which 79.31% were recyclable. The characterization of major waste streams are discussed, and the results are compared with comparable data from five universities in a range of other countries (Mexico, Canada, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Ethiopia). The annual growth of GDP per capita in China over the past five years before the research appeared to play an important role in the increasing of food waste on university campus, and the proportion of food waste is found to have a positive influence on recycling potential.
Cerbaro M, Morse S, Murphy R, Lynch J and Griffiths G (2020). Information from Earth Observation for the management of Sustainable Land Use and Land Cover in Brazil: An Analysis of User Needs. Sustainability 12, 489
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Brazil has some of the world’s most important forest and natural ecosystem resources and their sustainability is of global importance. The expansion of agriculture for livestock, the extractive industries, illegal logging, land conflicts, fire and deforestation are pressures on land use and drivers of land use change in many regions of Brazil. While different institutions in Brazil have sought to use Earth Observation (EO) data to support better land use management and conservation projects, several problems remain at the national and state level in the implementation of EO to support environmental policies and services provided to Brazilian society. This paper presents the results of a systematic analysis of the key challenges in using EO data in land management in Brazil and summarises them in a conceptual model of the factors influencing EO data use for assessing sustainable land use and land cover in Brazil. The research was based on a series of in-depth, semi-structured interviews (43) and structured interviews (53) with key stakeholders who make use of EO data across different locations in Brazil. The major challenges identified in the complex and multifaceted aspects of using this information were associated with access to, and with the processing of, raw data into usable information. The analysis also revealed novel insights on a lack of inter-institutional communication, adequate office infrastructure and personnel, availability of the right type of EO data and funding restrictions, political instability and bureaucracy as factors that limit more effective use of EO data in Brazil at present. We close this analysis by considering how EO information for the sustainable management of land use and land cover can assist institutions as they respond to the varied political and economic instabilities affecting environmental governance and deforestation levels
Morse S (2020). To rank or not to rank with indices? That is the question. Sustainability 12(14), 5572
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Ranking countries via index-based league tables is now commonplace and is said by its proponents to provide countries with an ability to compare performance with their peers, spurring them to learn from others and make improvements. The Human Development Index (HDI) is arguably one of the most influential indices of its type in terms of reporting within the media and influence on development policy and funding allocation. It is often used as part of a suite of indices to assess sustainability. The index was first published in the Human Development Report (HDR) of 1990 and has appeared in each of the HDRs published since then. This paper reports the first research of its type designed to explore the impacts of methodological changes over 28 years (1991 to 2018) on the ranks of a sample of 135 countries appearing in the HDRs. Results suggest that methodological changes in the HDI have had a statistically significant impact on the ranking of the majority (82%) of countries in the sample, and the ranks of countries that tend to appear towards the top, middle, or bottom of the HDI league table are just as likely to be influenced by changes in HDI methodology. The paper suggests that after nearly 30 years of the HDI, there is an urgent need for independent and empirical research on the changes that it has helped bring about.
Morse S (2021). A meta-analysis of the technical efficiency of yam production in Nigeria. Journal of Crop Improvement 35(1), 69-95
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The paper presents the first meta-analysis of yam ( Poir) production studies in Nigeria, with a special emphasis on technical efficiency. The focus was on published studies in journal papers and conferences. For the meta-analysis of production function, a total of 40 studies were included for ware yam and 3 for seed yam, for technical efficiency a total of 23 ware yam and 3 seed yam studies were included and for the farm budget meta-analysis, a total of 22 ware yam and 6 seed yam studies were included. The “peak” years of publication of the ware yam studies were from 2012 to 2014. The bulk of the studies took place in the major yam-growing states, such as Ekiti, Benue, and Kogi. Technical efficiency of yam production varied between and within each of the studies, with an average technical efficiency across studies of between 0.6 and 0.8. The studies highlight the importance of knowledge; it is not just about the quantity of inputs applied but how they are used that matters. The paper notes that meta-analyses of studies designed to explore the factors influencing production of agricultural crops in Nigeria are relatively sparse in number, yet given the importance of agriculture in the country, both for the livelihoods of millions of people, and export, then more such analyses are needed.
Dioscorea rotundata
Morse S (2020). Environmental and economic impacts of pesticide treatment in the Yam Minisett Technique. Experimental Agriculture 56(5), 662 - 676
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White yam (Dioscorea rotundata) is an important tuber crop in a number of countries, but especially in West Africa where it serves as a food staple as well as a cash crop as excess production is sold in local markets. But the availability of quality planting material, most notably seed yams, for yam production remains an important constraint for farmers. Techniques have been developed to help address this limitation by cutting yam tubers into pieces (minisetts), treating them with pesticide either via a seed dressing dust or pesticide ‘dips’ and planting to grow seed yams of the required size and quality. But while there have been many studies on the agronomy and adoption by farmers of these techniques, there have been fewer studies on their economic performance. Indeed, to date there have been no studies which compare the economic performance of treating setts compared to leaving them untreated and neither has there been any analysis of the environmental impact of treating setts. This paper reports the results of a study designed to address these two gaps in knowledge and is based upon results from a series of farmer-managed seed yam plots established in the middle-belt of Nigeria over four years (2013 to 2016). Results suggest that revenue and gross margin were higher for treated versus untreated setts although the latter still performed relatively well. Using the Field Use Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ), the commonly recommended pesticide sett treatments were estimated to have a low to moderate environmental impact, and further research is needed to see how far pesticide use can be reduced to still be effective and minimise any environmental impact.
Hassan O., Morse S. and Leach M. (2020). The energy lock-in effect of Solar Home Systems: A case study in rural Nigeria. Energies 13, 6682
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Ongoing reductions in the costs of solar PV and battery technologies have contributed to an increased use of home energy systems in Sub-Saharan African regions without grid access. However, such systems can normally support only low-power end uses, and there has been little research regarding the impact on households unable to transition to higher-wattage energy services in the continued absence of the grid. This paper examines the challenges facing rural energy transitions and whether households feel they are energy ‘locked in’. A mixed-methods approach using questionnaire-based household energy surveys of rural solar home system (SHS) users was used to collect qualitative and quantitative data. Thematic analysis and a mixture of descriptive and inferential statistical analyses were applied. The results showed that a significant number of households possessed appliances that could not be powered by their SHS and were willing to spend large sums to connect were a higher-capacity option available. This implied that a significant number of the households were locked into a low-energy future. Swarm electrification technology and energy efficient, DC-powered plug-and-play appliances were suggested as means to move the households to higher tiers of electricity access.
Zhang D., Hao M. and Morse S. (2020). Is Environmental Sustainability Taking a Backseat in China after COVID-19? The Perspective of Business Managers. Sustainability 12, 10369
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China’s quick economic recovery from COVID-19 has presented a narrow but vast opportunity to build an economy that is cleaner, fairer, and safer. Will China grab this opportunity? The answer rests with both business managers and the government. Based on a questionnaire survey of 1160 owners and managers of companies headquartered in 32 regions of China and covering 30 industries, this paper explores how COVID-19 has impacted Chinese business, especially with regard to the three dimensions of sustainability (economic, social, and environmental). The results suggest that Chinese companies’ sustainability priorities have been shifted towards the social dimension both during COVID-19 and into the post-pandemic phase, regardless of the type of ownership, company size, or market focus (domestic, overseas, or mixture of the two). However, all types of company prioritize the need for economic sustainability in the post-pandemic phase and in relative terms the importance of the environmental dimension has been diminished. Hence the potential for a post-pandemic environmental rebound effect in China is clear. But it does not have to be the case if Chinese businesses and the government take actions to change its recovery plans to embrace the environmental dimension of sustainability. The paper puts forward some suggestions and recommendations for businesses and the government. 
Cerbaro M., Morse S., Murphy R., Lynch, J. and Griffiths, G. (2020). Challenges in Using Earth Observation (EO) Data to Support Environmental Management in Brazil. Sustainability 12, 10411.
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This paper presents the results of research designed to explore the challenges involved in the use of Earth Observation (EO) data to support environmental management Brazil. While much has been written about the technology and applications of EO, the perspective of end-users of EO data and their needs has been under-explored in the literature. A total of 53 key informants in Brasilia and the cities of Rio Branco and Cuiaba were interviewed regarding their current use and experience of EO data and the expressed challenges that they face. The research builds upon a conceptual model which illustrates the main steps and limitations in the flow of EO data and information for use in the management of land use and land cover (LULC) in Brazil. The current paper analyzes and ranks, by relative importance, the factors that users identify as limiting their use of EO. The most important limiting factor for the end-user was the lack of personnel, followed by political and economic context, data management, innovation, infrastructure and IT, technical capacity to use and process EO data, bureaucracy, limitations associated with access to high-resolution data, and access to ready-to-use product. In general, users expect to access a ready-to-use product, transformed from the raw EO data into usable information. Related to this is the question of whether this processing is best done within an organization or sourced from outside. Our results suggest that, despite the potential of EO data for informing environmental management in Brazil, its use remains constrained by its lack of suitably trained personnel and financial resources, as well as the poor communication between institutions
Greenslade C., Murphy R., Morse S. and Griffiths G.H. (2020). Seeing the Wood for the Trees: Factors Limiting Woodland Management and Sustainable Local Wood Product Use in the South East of England. Sustainability 12, 10071.
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The South East of England has an abundance of woodland, which offers a potential sustainable timber and fuel resource in parallel with being a much-loved part of rural life and rich ecological wildlife habitat. An ever-increasing quantity of mature broadleaved trees is available for harvest forms, with appropriate management and a sustainable yield potential, set against the backdrop of only 10% of UK timber demand currently supplied from UK-grown resource. There has been little systematic research into the factors that limit the sector and initiatives to address the challenge have not had a significant impact on the amount of woodland under management. Through semi-structured interviews across the wood supply chain, this research provides an integrated analysis of the factors limiting woodland management in the South East of England. The findings indicate the sector is complex, multifaceted, slow to respond to change and driven by a strong set of human, economic, environmental, and structural motivations away from use of local wood product. A novel insight from the research was that although there was a positive affinity for forestry and a strong culture of woodland management across the spectrum of stakeholders, there was little evidence of effective collaboration or sector integration. These factors have been summarised in a ‘rich picture’ providing a visual and intuitive way of engaging with stakeholders. This research fills a significant gap in understanding the dynamics of forestry in the South East of England and provides new underpinning evidence for policy makers to design interventions aimed at delivering better sustainable utilisation of woodland resources in parallel with offering support to rural communities and economies.
Hao M., Zhang D. and Morse, S. (2020). Waste Separation Behaviour of College Students under a Mandatory Policy in China: A Case Study of Zhengzhou City. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 17, 8190.
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The need for effective solid waste management (SWM) is an important environmental and public health issue. As a key way of minimizing municipal solid waste (MSW), source separation has in recent years become the centre of discussion in China. Following the example of Shanghai, the city of Zhengzhou introduced its mandatory waste separation measures on 1 December 2019. But does the mandatory regulation work? This study aims to investigate the waste separation behaviour of college students in Zhengzhou under the mandatory regulation and the motivations behind students’ behaviour. A questionnaire-based survey was carried out on 62 university campuses in Zhengzhou City, and a total of 1747 valid questionnaires were completed across these campuses and analysed. It was found that under Zhengzhou’s mandatory measures, college students do have a basic knowledge of waste separation and most are familiar with where kitchen waste should be placed, but they have problems categorizing some recyclables such as glass, hazardous waste such as lightbulbs and other waste such as cigarette butts and napkins. It was also found that college students’ waste separation behaviour, their attitude towards waste separation and the convenience of waste sorting facilities in Zhengzhou in the mandatory era have been improved compared to the era prior to mandatory waste separation. The results also indicate that most of college students (86.7%) always or sometimes undertake waste separation, and students majoring in science and senior year undergraduates are more likely to participate in the practice of waste separation. Other influencing factors of college students’ waste separation behaviour include convenience of waste sorting facilities, their willingness to separate waste, knowledge of a related field, attitude towards waste separation, peer pressure as well as the existence of a reward and penalty system. Management strategies for improving college students’ waste separation behaviour under mandatory regulation are also discusses and a number of recommendations for improvement are made.