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Provision of Ecosystem services in the ES scheme - BD5005

Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems, such as clean water, flood control, storage of greenhouse gases and pollination of crops. They also include cultural services, such as landscapes for recreation and education, and for aesthetic appreciation of nature. International and national studies are showing that human activities, such as intensive agriculture, are contributing to declines in the ecosystem services provided by nature, with possible consequences for human health and well-being. A number of initiatives are underway to maintain ecosystem services and potentially to reverse their decline. In the UK, and elsewhere in the EU, agri-environment schemes have great potential to contribute to the maintenance of ecosystem services.

The English Environmental Stewardship scheme provides one such opportunity to enhance ecosystem services in the farmed environment. Environmental Stewardship encourages farmers to carry out a wide range of activities, with the current aims to: conserve wildlife; maintain and enhance landscape quality and character; protect the historic environment; promote public access and understanding of the countryside; and protect natural resources. The range of management options under Environmental Stewardship may also affect ecosystem services, for example: winter cover crops may lessen flooding hazards by reducing water run-off; or grass margins in arable field may trap sediment and nutrients and so reduce water pollution. While the potential is clear, the evidence for effects is not well understood and little is known about how Environmental Stewardship may best be used to enhance ecosystem services.

This project will address these issues through three activities. We will collate and analyse the evidence for impacts of Environmental Stewardship and similar land management activities on services from a variety of sources, including the scientific literature and expert opinion. We will then use modelling approaches to suggest the best Environmental Stewardship options to enhance ecosystem services and the ideal placement of these within a farm. Also considering issues such as practicality, policy needs and cost, we will produce a set of ‘option packages’ which should enhance a range of services when applied to a farm. We will also use our review and analysis to suggest new forms of Environmental Stewardship options which may better enhance services.

We will carry out two activities to increase our knowledge of how Environmental Stewardship options may improve ecosystem services. The first will use well-developed models of the effects of land management on processes such as carbon storage and water flow to determine how combinations of Environmental Stewardship options in the English uplands may enhance ecosystem services. This will involve novel combinations of modelling methods to answer precise questions about the impact of local farming activities on services over whole landscapes, including where best to locate Environmental Stewardship options.

Secondly, we will test one suggested option package in a experiment on a farm in lowland England. This will involve establishing the range of options in sets of fields on a working farm to ensure the experiment is relevant to the real world and the scale at which Environmental Stewardship agreements are implemented. We will use established experimental procedures of replication and use of controls, to ensure scientific credibility. The Environmental Stewardship option and control areas of the farm will be monitored using measures of water use, infiltration and run-off, greenhouse gas storage and emissions, water quality in terms of nitrogen phosphorus and sediment, pollination of crops, biodiversity, and stakeholders’ use and attitudes towards the changed farmed landscape.

These measures will be combined with modelling methods to project how the Environmental Stewardship activities will affect water quantity and quality and greenhouse gas storage over the long-term and, if the options were implemented more widely, over large areas.

The project results will inform Environmental Stewardship policy and will greatly enhance our knowledge of how to manage the land for ecosystem services. Dissemination of the results and training and demonstration will ensure Natural England and Defra staff can implement the findings and that stakeholders can make best use of the project outputs.

Task 1:
1.1. Review all existing ES options to identify key options that will optimise the delivery of supporting, regulating, cultural and provisioning ecosystem services in combination with ES objectives.
1.2. Identify potential synergies and conflicts between ES options and ecosystem services delivery.
1.3. Identify ‘packages’ of existing ES options that, in combination, will optimise ecosystem service delivery in combination with existing ES objectives at the agreement scale.
1.4. Make recommendations for the rationalisation of existing options based on uptake and the evidence for their effectiveness for delivering key outcomes and a range of ecosystem services.
1.5. Based on the results of 1.4, identify potential new ‘multi-functional’ options (delivering multiple benefits and services) that might be suitable for inclusion within ES.

Task 2:
2.1. Develop a conceptual catchment model linking land management to carbon and water management based on current understanding and taking account of synergies and trade-offs.
2.2. Modify/develop existing physically based process model(s) to create a ‘new’ catchment water-carbon model.
2.3. Apply this model to selected case study areas to investigate a number of land management scenarios, in relation to ecosystem service provision.
2.4. Use these model scenarios to determine how ES options could be employed to modify water flows and enhance carbon sequestration and storage.
2.5. Use the model scenarios to determine the scale at which particular options would need to be applied to deliver water and carbon related ecosystem services.
2.6. Determine the ‘optimal’ location for particular options within a series of case study areas.

Task 3:
3.1. Carry out a field experiment at the agreement scale of a package of ES options for ecosystem service provision on lowland farms.
3.2. Determine individual and combined effects of ES options on measures of greenhouse gases, water quality, water quantity regulation, pollination services, biodiversity and cultural services.
3.3. Use ecosystem models to scale up local measures of ecosystem services to determine agreement- and larger-scale impacts of ES options.
3.4. Gain an understanding of synergies and trade-offs in ecosystem service delivery among options within an agreement, and the effects of management actions on delivery.
3.5. Use experimental results to provide evidence-based advice on optimal option packages for ecosystem service delivery, proposed modifications of existing options, and potential new options.
3.6. Exploit the experimental platform for demonstration of an ‘ES option package’, and for training and technology transfer to NE advisors and the farming community.
Project Documents
• SPE - Specification : AES RD Proposal Ecosystem Services FINAL RB-H 14.7.2010   (71k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2010

To: 2015

Cost: £600,000
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Ecosystem Service              
Environmental Stewardship