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Ecosystem Interactions on the Somerset Levels - NR0149

Following publication of the UK National Ecosystem Assessment in June 2011, and Defra’s promotion of taking an ecosystems approach to managing natural capital, Defra identified a need for projects to examine, in real-world situations, how discrete areas provide the wide range of ecosystem services that are valued by society; how the different natural benefits can be delivered in ways that complement and add value to one another; and how systems of governance and policy delivery can best support these multiple benefits. This project is one of a suite of projects that were commissioned to fill this evidence need.
The research aims were to examine and facilitate debate on the interactions between competing land use priorities on the Somerset Levels, developing analytical tools that identify synergies and trade-offs between the natural services that the area provides, contributing to more effective policy interventions and lessons that can be applied to other areas of lowland farmland in the UK.

The project has sought to gain a better understanding of the interactions between the ecosystem services provided by the Somerset Levels at three different levels:
1. Spatial interactions – understanding the patterns of land use priorities, focussing particularly on where there are competing priorities between different ecosystem services.
2. Social interactions – understanding how different groups of people (e.g. landowners and managers, local communities, statutory bodies and non-governmental organisations) are involved in providing and using different services, and the competing and supporting relationships between them.
3. Policy interactions – understanding how public policy at both national and local levels regulates and supports the delivery of different services, and how, collectively, policy instruments are effective at balancing and optimising the public benefits provided by the services.

During the period of the study, the project area was subjected to two major flood events, the latter (in the winter of 2013/14) unprecedented in recent times. These events presented a major issue for the study methodology which was initially based on workshops with local stakeholders. The severity of the short term issues of recovery from flooding made theoretical questions about long term land and water management seem irrelevant. As a result, the nature of this project changed from one that sought to inform decisions and take a direct role in influencing outcomes to one of observation and passive assessment using existing data, analysis tools and published literature.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : NR0149 Report 210915 Somerset levels   (1233k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2012

To: 2015

Cost: £17,200
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Land Use Consultants