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Pressures on Natural Resources - NR0104

Defra’s recent Five Year Strategy identified Natural Resource Protection as one of its 5 strategic priorities. Within this priority framework, one of the specific objectives is for Defra to undertake a systematic approach to the development of an evidence base for the natural environment. This project contributes to that objective by examining information on “pressures” that act on natural environment.

The projects aims are to:
• Identify different types of pressure on the natural environment.
• Identify existing mappings of pressures and assess how useful these are for policy-makers.
• Identify gaps in the mapping of the distribution of pressures.
• Assess the robustness of methodologies, particularly how suited they are to assessing the cumulative and combined impacts of pressures.
• Assess how the social, environmental and economic costs of pressures are measured and taken into account by policy-makers.

The outcomes of the project will be an improved understanding of what “pressures” on the natural environment actually are, what information exists on these pressures and how they can be addressed when making policy.

The first stage of the project is to develop recommendations for a working definition of “pressures”, and a framework for their organisation and categorisation. Using this definition, the project will then identify a list of pressures that are of the greatest concern. This will be achieved through by pooling the knowledge of experience practitioners and through a literature review.

For each of the items on the prioritised list, potential sources of data that can quantify that pressure will be reviewed and reported on. This will include:

• Recording of metadata (structured information on the ownership and nature of the dataset)
• Detailed analysis of qualitative aspects of the datasets, including fitness for purpose. This will include commentary on how well the data characterises the pressures on a geographical basis and how well it relates to the underlying natural resources
• Shortcomings and gaps in the data and the methodology used to produce it
• Linkages and synergies between the datasets – how might the pressures operate in combination?

If no data for a particular pressure can be identified, this too will be recorded.

By using the definitions and organisation scheme developed in the first phase of the project, this stage of the work verify the robustness of the scheme and highlight any necessary modifications.

In parallel to the study of data, a review will be conducted of current practice in policy-making and the way in which current appraisal mechanisms (e.g. RIA, SEA) take account of social, environmental and economic costs of natural resource pressures. This review will develop recommendations on where these mechanisms could be improved in this regard. The review will explore existing literature on the issue, and undertake a series of semi-structured interviews with policy-making staff in Defra and other departments.

Finally, the work proposes (as an extension to the project) to disseminate the findings of the data review through a number of existing channels. These channels include GIGateway, MAGIC, Countryside Information System and the internal government resources Maps on Tap and SPIRE.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Final Report   (1424k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2005

To: 2006

Cost: £48,450
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Atkins Environment
Environmental Impact              
Natural Environment              
Fields of Study
Ecosystems Approach