There is now wide recognition of the importance to human well-being of services delivered by the peatland environment. Despite this, there remains little ecological understanding of ecosystem services, particularly in terms of how and where they are supplied and consumed at a regional or national scale. The new cross government Natural Environment PSA28 target aims to secure a diverse, healthy and resilient natural environment, which provides the basis for everyone’s well-being, health and prosperity now and in the future; and where the values of the services provided by the natural environment are reflected in decision-making. Therefore, when taking action in peatlands, management should strive to achieve multiple benefits and not implement action to promote one service to the detriment of other vital services. This project is a scoping study to a bigger project, which will inform the Defra Ecosystem Approach framework in light of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. It is novel and visionary work, bringing key stakeholders for peatlands together for strategic mapping and spatial analysis of public benefits (ecosystem services).
The overall aim of this Defra project is to identify the distribution and assess cost-benefit flows of different ecosystem services in upland and lowland peatlands. As a scoping study this project will assess the availability of data and scientific evidence on peatland ecosystem service provision as well as the transferability of the evidence base using detailed case studies. The concept of ecosystem services is interdisciplinary and critically linked to human welfare and societal choice. Therefore, a transdisciplinary project approach is required to combine biophysical and socio-economic science in partnership with stakeholder expertise.
Work will be done using staff from the Moors for the Future Partnership, one of the biggest UK peat restoration projects, in collaboration with internationally-renowned staff from three universities. The project team harnesses both practical restoration expertise and research expertise. The project investigators have developed good networks with stakeholders and peatland projects thereby adding value to the project. To promote the most effective knowledge transfer and collation of expertise, the project will hold a conference inviting key peat stakeholders and scientists with complementary expertise.
The project will choose upland and lowland peatlands demonstration case study sites in different states of degradation and assess the information available on the provision and quantification of peatland ecosystem services for each site. For each case study we will identify and map key ecosystem services provided by peat. The project team has direct access to a large number of potential sites and data, which have been collected at these sites, which are of direct importance to this project and will therefore guarantee a successful delivery.
To evaluate cost-benefit flows of peatland ecosystem services, we will determine suitable valuation data required to undertake peatland ecosystem service valuation based on peatland maintenance and restoration.
Where possible we will provide assements of cost-benefiot flows for ecosystem services from the case study sites and map opportunity and conflict zones. We will assess the capacity of each site to increase its ecosystem service provision and assess the case for restoration, outline conflicts between service provisions and compare differences in ecosystem service provision between sites. We will assess the transferability of results from each case study to other areas. As a result the project will provide a list of the top 10 criteria for assessing peatland ecosystem service provision to facilitate monitoring of the health of ecosystems.
Ultimately, the project identify information gaps and research priorities to provide recommendations to scope and set-up a phase 2 peatland ecosystem service project in order to provide critical guidance on peatland management actions to prioritise locations and actions of peat restoration in England and Wales. It
As ecosystem services are a matter of societal choice, we will use a transdisciplinary approach by involving social and environmental scientists and key stakeholders from the outset of the project. A conference will facilitate knowledge exchange, opportunities for evaluation of project results and synthesis, and a joint-up scoping of the phase 2 work.