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




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 (2021) A meta-analysis of the technical efficiency of yam production in Nigeria. Journal of Crop Improvement 35(1), 69-95
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
Zhang D., Lu S., Morse S. and Liu L. (2021) The impact of COVID-19 on business perspectives of sustainable development and corporate social responsibility in China. Environment, Development and Sustainability (published online)
The new coronavirus (COVID-19) has generated an unprecedented degree of social and economic impact on the planet, but few researchers have explored the repercussion of COVID-19 for sustainable development (SD) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), especially from the perspective of Chinese businesses. This paper is the first to outline the priority changes of both SD and CSR over the period of COVID-19 incidence in China. An online questionnaire survey of 1161 owners and managers of Chinese companies across China was conducted, and respondents were asked to score the priorities of their company over the pre, during and post-COVID-19 periods. The research was carried out at the end of the first COVID-19 wave in China but during the period of lockdown in some parts of the country. It was found that there was a priority change regarding three dimensions of sustainable development and 13 aspects of CSR. While the social dimension of SD was prioritized during and post COVID-19, the environmental dimension was the only one deemed to be less important and less prioritized in a longer term after the pandemic. The top three short-term CSR priorities were having in place a workplace health and safety plan, engaging in philanthropic activities and protecting bio-diversity, and the top three longer term CSR priorities were job creation, protecting bio-diversity and having in place a workplace health and safety plan. Environmental protection and using clean energy were not reported as a CSR priority. The paper concludes that China’s recovery mode cannot be called ‘green’ and suggests ways this could be changed.  
Nubi O. O., Morse S. and Murphy R. J. (2021) A prospective Social Life Cycle Assessment (sLCA) of electricity generation from Municipal Solid Waste in Nigeria. Sustainability 13(18), 10177
This research assesses the social impacts that could arise from the potential Waste to Energy (WtE) generation of electricity from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) in the cities of Lagos and Abuja in Nigeria. Social Life Cycle Assessment (sLCA) was the main analytical approach used coupled with a participatory approach to identify relevant social issues to serve as the potential sLCA impact ‘subcategories’. Focus group research in both cities led to the identification of 11 social issues that were transformed into social impact subcategories with appropriate indicators for the sLCA. These were populated with data from a questionnaire-based survey with the approx. 140 stakeholders. The results indicated that the impact subcategories were ranked respectively as having the most and the least significant social impacts associated with the potential adoption of WtE in these two cities in Nigeria. Overall, the research showed that the expected social impact was higher for WtE electricity generation in Lagos than in Abuja. This difference may be related to the higher population and greater amounts of waste in Lagos and its position as a hub for many of the country’s commercial and industrial activities which have long been affected by inadequate electricity supply. This study also provides an example of the use of participatory processes as an important approach in sLCA to the elucidation of social issues that are directly pertinent to key local perspectives and when considering such technology implementations.
“Improved Electricity Supply” and “Income”
Greenslade C., Murphy R. J., Morse S. and Griffiths G. H. (2021) Breaking down the barriers: Exploring the role of collaboration in the forestry sector of South East England. Sustainability 13(18), 10258
The forestry supply chain in the South East of England is characterized by a diverse set of independent businesses and a sector strongly driven by personal connections and trust. Yet opportunity exists to increase the amount of wood product through bringing currently unmanaged woodlands to the market, a result that should have environmental as well as economic benefits. Previous research has indicated that agents play a key linking role between woodland owners and contractors, offering services ranging from consultancy support, grant aid access, and the writing of management plans, to the scheduling and delivery of thinning and felling activity, with a unique and important position in the sector in terms of facilitating change. This study, through interviews with 18 woodland agents, was designed to explore collaboration across the sector. The results suggest that current levels of collaboration are low and use predominantly horizontal mechanisms, focusing on information sharing rather than joint operation. This is despite a positive market opportunity and a growth aspiration, as well as enthusiasm for increased collaboration that is particularly prevalent in smaller businesses. Four main features of the sector are limiting the amount of collaboration: a traditional handshake culture strongly embedded within rural life; the construct, mechanisms and frameworks of the sector; the value set of those operating at this critical juncture of supply and demand, and; the lack of positive examples of collaboration. Higher levels of collaboration were seen by woodland agents to be positive for increasing the sustainable and productive management of woodlands but achieving this will be challenging to established practice.   
Andries A., Murphy R. J., Morse S. and Lynch J. (2021) Earth Observation for monitoring, reporting and verification for environmental land management policy in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Sustainability 13(16), 9105
The main aim of the new agricultural scheme, Environmental Land Management, in England is to reward landowners based on their provision of ‘public goods’ while achieving the goals of the 25 Year Environment Plan and commitment to net zero emission by 2050. Earth Observation (EO) satellites appear to offer an unprecedented opportunity in the process of monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) of this scheme. In this study, we worked with ecologists to determine the habitat–species relationships for five wildlife species in the Surrey Hills ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ (AONB), and this information was used to examine the extent to which EO satellite imagery, particularly very high resolution (VHR) imagery, could be used for habitat assessment, via visual interpretation and automated methods. We show that EO satellite products at 10 m resolution and other geospatial datasets enabled the identification and location of broadly suitable habitat for these species and the use of VHR imagery (at 1–4 m spatial resolution) allowed valuable insights for remote assessment of habitat qualities and quantity. Hence, at a fine scale, we obtained additional habitats such as scrub, hedges, field margins, woodland and tree characteristics, and agricultural practices that offer an effective source of information for sustainable land management. The opportunities and limitations of this study are discussed, and we conclude that there is considerable scope for it to offer valuable information for land management decision-making and as support and evidence for MRV for incentive schemes. 
Morse S (2022) The role of plant health in the sustainable production of seed yams in Nigeria: A challenging nexus between plant health, human food security and culture. Plant Pathology 71(1), 43–54
Yam () is a root and tuber crop throughout West Africa and has significant nutritional, economic, and cultural value, which underpins its importance for the food security of many people who live there. The crop is propagated vegetatively, primarily via the planting of small whole tubers (seed yams) and pieces (setts) cut from larger tubers. However, the use of such vegetative material means that a variety of pests (primarily insects and nematodes) and diseases (primarily fungal and viral) can carry over and multiply from season to season. This paper sets out the plant health issues associated with yam, and how these have been addressed by improving the availability of good quality planting material, especially via the Yam Minisett Technique (YMT) and the more recently developed Adapted Yam Minisett Technique (AYMT). Both approaches are based on the planting of “minisetts” treated with pesticide to produce seed yam free of pests and fungal pathogens, but there have been challenges regarding their adoption by farmers. The paper explores these challenges and how these attempts to improve plant health fit into a wider discussion of the sustainability of yam production in West Africa given that there are other driving forces of climate change, globalization, and urbanization at play in the region.
Dioscorea rotundata
Andries A., Morse S., Murphy R.J., Lynch J. and Woolliams E.T. (2022) Using Data from Earth Observation to Support Sustainable Development Indicators: An Analysis of the Literature and Challenges for the Future. Sustainability 14(3), 1191
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework aims to end poverty, improve health and education, reduce inequality, design sustainable cities, support economic growth, tackle climate change and leave no one behind. To monitor and report the progress on the 231 unique SDGs indicators in all signatory countries, data play a key role. Here, we reviewed the data challenges and costs associated with obtaining traditional data and satellite data (particularly for developing countries), emphasizing the benefits of using satellite data, alongside their portal and platforms in data access. We then assessed, under the maturity matrix framework (MMF 2.0), the current potential of satellite data applications on the SDG indicators that were classified into the sustainability pillars. Despite the SDG framework having more focus on socio-economic aspects of sustainability, there has been a rapidly growing literature in the last few years giving practical examples in using earth observation (EO) to monitor both environmental and socio-economic SDG indicators; there is a potential to populate 108 indicators by using EO data. EO also has a wider potential to support the SDGs beyond the existing indicators. 
Chukwu T.M., Morse S. and Murphy R.J. (2022) Poor Air Quality in Urban Settings: A Comparison of Perceptual Indicators, Causes and Management in two Cities. Sustainability 14(3), 1438
Poor air quality (PAQ) is a global concern, especially in urban areas, and is often seen as an important element of social sustainability given its negative impact on health and quality of life. However, little research has been undertaken in cities of the developing world to explore how residents perceive poor air quality, its main causes, what control measures should be used to address PAQ and where the main responsibility rests for implementing control measures. The research described in this paper sought to address these points, using a questionnaire-based survey (n = 262) in Nigeria’s federal capital city of Abuja (n = 137) and the state-capital city of Enugu (n = 125). The survey took place during the Covid-19 pandemic (October 2020 to March 2021), and was stratified to ensure representation across a number of demographic groups such as gender, age, education and income. The results were analysed using the Kruskal-Wallis non-parametric test and Hochberg’s posthoc test available in SPSS version 28. The study found that the ranking of perceptual indicators and the main causes of PAQ had much agreement between respondents from both cities and between demographic groups. Smoke, odour and dust particles were perceived to be the most important indicators of PAQ, while the main sources of PAQ were waste and bush burning, vehicle use and power generators. The two most preferred control measures were proper waste management and the avoidance of bush burning. However, there was a significant difference between the two cities in terms of the main organisations responsible for addressing PAQ, with respondents from Abuja citing the federal government while those from Enugu cited the state government. Interestingly, younger people in Enugu noted that the government should take more responsibility in controlling PAQ than did the older demographic in that city, but this difference was not seen in Abuja. Overall, this study reveals that residents in these two Nigerian cities clearly recognise their exposure to PAQ and it suggests that these perceptual indicators, and views on sources and interventions should be central to designing policies to control this important issue.
Andries A., Morse S., Murphy R.J., Lynch J. and Woolliams E.R. (2022) Assessing education from space: Using satellite Earth Observation to quantify overcrowding in primary schools in rural areas of Nigeria. Sustainability 14(3), 1408.
Nigeria is a country with a rapidly growing youthful population and the availability of good quality education for all is a key priority in the sustainable development of the country. An important element of this is the need to improve access to high-quality primary education in rural areas. A key indicator for progress on this is the provision of adequate classroom space for the more than 20 million learners in Nigerian public schools because overpopulated classrooms are known to have a strong negative impact on the performance of both pupils and their teachers. However, it can be challenging to rapidly monitor this indicator for the over 60 thousand primary schools, especially in rural areas. In this research, we used satellite Earth Observation (EO) and Nigerian government data to determine the size of available teaching spaces and evaluate the degree of overcrowding in a sample of 1900 randomly selected rural primary schools across 19 Nigerian states spanning all regions of the country. Our analysis shows that 81.4 % of the schools examined were overcrowded according to the minimum standard threshold for school size of at least 1.2 m2 of classroom space per pupil defined by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Such overcrowding can be expected to have a negative impact on educational performance, on achieving universal basic education and UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 (Quality Education), and it can lead to poverty. While measuring floor area can be performed manually on site, collecting, and reporting such data for the number of rural primary schools in a large and populous country such as Nigeria is a serious, time-consuming administrative task with considerable potential for errors and data gaps. Satellite EO data are readily available including for remote areas, are reproducible and are easy to update over time. This paper provides a proof-of-concept example of how such EO data can contribute to addressing this socio-economic dimension of the SDGs framework.
Andries A, Morse S, Murphy RJ, Lynch J, Mota B and Woolliams ER (2021) Can current Earth Observation technologies provide useful information on soil organic carbon stocks for Environmental Land Management policy? Sustainability 13(21), 12074
Earth Observation (EO) techniques could offer a more cost-effective and rapid approach for reliable monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) of soil organic carbon (SOC). Here, we analyse the available published literature to assess whether it may be possible to estimate SOC using data from sensors mounted on satellites and airborne systems. This is complemented with research using a series of semi-structured interviews with experts in soil health and policy areas to understand the level of accuracy that is acceptable for MRV approaches for SOC. We also perform a cost-accuracy analysis of the approaches, including the use of EO techniques, for SOC assessment in the context of the new UK Environmental Land Management scheme. We summarise the state-of-the-art EO techniques for SOC assessment and identify 3 themes and 25 key suggestions and concerns for the MRV of SOC from the expert interviews. Notably, over three-quarters of the respondents considered that a ‘validation accuracy’ of 90% or better would be required from EO-based techniques to be acceptable as an effective system for the monitoring and reporting of SOC stocks. The cost-accuracy analysis revealed that a combination of EO technology and in situ sampling has the potential to offer a reliable, cost-effective approach to estimating SOC at a local scale (4 ha), although several challenges remain. We conclude by proposing an MRV framework for SOC that collates and integrates seven criteria for multiple data sources at the appropriate scales. 
Cerbaro M., Morse S., Murphy R. Middlemiss S. and Michelakis D. (2022) Assessing urban vulnerability to flooding: A Framework to measure resilience using remote sensing approaches. Sustainability 14(4), 2276
Assessing and measuring urban vulnerability resilience is a challenging task if the right type of information is not readily available. In this context, remote sensing and Earth Observation (EO) approaches can help to monitor damages and local conditions before and after extreme weather events, such as flooding. Recently, the increasing availability of Google Street View (GSV) coverage offers additional potential ways to assess the vulnerability and resilience to such events. GSV is available at no cost, is easy to use, and is available for an increasing number of locations. This exploratory research focuses on the use of GSV and EO data to assess exposure, sensitivity, and adaptation to flooding in urban areas in the cities of Belem and Rio Branco in the Amazon region of Brazil. We present a Visual Indicator Framework for Resilience (VIFOR) to measure 45 indicators for these characteristics in 1 km2 sample areas in poor and richer districts in the two cities. The aim was to assess critically the extent to which GSV-derived information could be reliable in measuring the proposed indicators and how this new methodology could be used to measure vulnerability and resilience where official census data and statistics are not readily available. Our results show that variation in vulnerability and resilience between the rich and poor areas in both cities could be demonstrated through calibration of the chosen indicators using GSV-derived data, suggesting that this is a useful, complementary and cost-effective addition to census data and/or recent high resolution EO data. Furthermore, the GSV-linked approach used here may assist users who lack the technical skills to process raw EO data into usable information. The ready availability of insights on the vulnerability and resilience of diverse urban areas by straightforward remote sensing methods such as those developed here with GSV can provide valuable evidence for decisions on critical infrastructure investments in areas with low capacity to cope with flooding.
Martinez-Hernandez E., Sadhukhan J., Aburto J., Amezcua-Allieri M.A., Morse S. and Murphy R. (2022) Modelling to analyse the process and sustainability performance of forestry-based bioenergy systems. Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy (available online)
This study develops a novel mathematical modelling framework for biomass combined heat and power systems (CHP) that links biomass and process characteristics to sustainability assessment of the life cycle. A total of twenty-nine indicators for the process (four-indicators), economic (five-indicators), environmental (eight-indicators) and social global (five-indicators) and local (seven-indicators) aspects have been analysed for sustainability. These are technological: biomass throughput, electricity and steam generations and CHP efficiency; economic: internal rate of return, capital, operating and feedstock costs and cost of production; environmental: global warming, fossil, land and water use, acidification, urban smog, eutrophication and ecotoxicity potentials; social (global): labour rights and decent work, health & safety, human rights, governance and community infrastructure; social (local): total forest land, direct/indirect jobs, gender equality and energy-water-sanitation access for communities, from biomass characteristics (carbon and hydrogen contents), energy demands and economic parameters. This paper applies the developed methodology to a case study in Mexico. From 12.47 kt/year forestry residue, 1 MWe is generated with an associated low-pressure steam generation of 50 kt/year, at the cost of production of $0.023/kWh. This makes the energy provision “affordable and clean” for marginalised/poor communities (the UN Sustainable Development Goals, SDG7). Bioenergy can curb > 90% of the greenhouse gas emissions and primary energy use, 6 kt CO2 eq and 74 TJ annually. Bioenergy reduces other environmental impacts considerably, water consumption, acidification and eutrophication by 87–53%, and urban smog and ecotoxicity by 29–18%. Bioenergy can improve all five social themes in the Central American cluster countries. In addition to the SDG7, the forestry-based bioenergy system can also achieve the SDG6: "clean water and sanitation for all".
Talubo J.P., Malena R.A., Morse S. and Saroj D. (2022) Practitioners’ Participatory Development of Indicators for Island Community Resilience to Disasters. Sustainability 14(7), 4102
Despite the existence of a wide range of literature on indicators of disaster resilience in various geographical contexts that have been developed by different agencies and academia, not much has been done to include the insights of practitioners at the local level. This paper seeks to address the lack of practitioner insight and perspective by proposing a mixed methodology in developing composite indicators for the resilience of an island community to disasters. We used a combination of participatory approaches, such as semi-structured interviews with key informants, the web-based Delphi method, and expert interviews through a case study site in the Philippines—the Batanes island province. Principal Component Analysis (PCA) was utilized to analyse the data from web-Delphi, and the results from the content analysis of the interviews were used to support these findings. From a broad list of 144 indicators, the process identified 22 composite indicators for assessing the disaster resilience of an island community. We conclude that the development of new approaches for assessing disaster resilience of island communities is a positive step towards a better understanding and operationalization of the concept of resilience. The process followed in this paper is a significant milestone in developing new approaches to answer the question of what makes an island community resilient to disasters.
Talubo J.P., Morse S. and Saroj D. (2022) Whose resilience matters? A socio-ecological systems approach to defining and assessing disaster resilience for small islands. Environmental Challenges (available online)
Resilience is a multi-faceted concept that traces its evolution based on the field of discipline wherein it was used. Various researchers have defined the term throughout the years according to their own expertise. This has impacted the development and evolution of the concept and how it was used in each specific discipline. One of the most recent and important use of the term is in the disaster paradigm. This paper traces the evolution of the definition of resilience and narrows it down to the disaster realm, eventually focusing on small islands as a socio-ecological system. It also discusses the relationship of resilience with vulnerability and enumerates the various tools and methods that have been used to measure both concepts. This review also presents an integration which identifies social, economic and ecological resilience as the different facets of disaster resilience of small islands. This paper reveals that there are gaps in defining disaster resilience of small islands through a socio-ecological systems approach. Moreover, there are few studies on using the participatory approach for determining indicators of disaster resilience which contributes to a research-policy gap in resilience studies. The paper recommends a strong future research direction on how to translate research findings into a tool that could help communities at the local level, especially those living in small islands.