Landscape Ecology Programme
Connecting Wakehurst’s landscape, science, and visitors to research the value of nature for people, agriculture, and the environment.
Land management in the UK is facing its biggest change in 50 years as it transitions from the Common Agricultural Policy to the Environmental Land Management Scheme. Underpinning this change are aspirations for a comprehensive UK account of all-natural capital assets and ecosystem service benefits.
In response, several frameworks have been developed for Natural Capital assessment such as the Ecosystem Service Framework and the Habitat Classification Framework. These frameworks are currently undermined by a lack of data, infeasibility for large-scale systematic monitoring and need for additional Natural Capital asset-based metrics to define ‘good’ land management across variable landscape types.
A multitude of tools to measure Natural Capital assets are available, including remote sensing, spatial ecological modelling, questionnaire surveys and citizen science approaches. Using citizen science to understand states and trends of ecosystem services has garnered interest as evidence of its potential accumulates in research literature. Citizen science has underpinned a host of natural and social science research, which have largely remained in relative infancy in the context of natural capital research.
The Landscape Ecology Programme will address these shortcomings, exploring knowledge gaps in natural capital valuation methods (e.g. the use of a citizen science approach) and contributing to this field of research. The programme will develop valuation indicators and metrics with multiple stakeholders to define natural assets and ecosystem services and identify potential future risks requiring mitigation.
The programme is based at Wakehurst, Kew’s wild botanic garden. Wakehurst is a nationally important SSSI, a rich and diverse landscape leading best practice in sustainable land management (RBG Kew, 2013). Wakehurst can be an exemplar for developing Natural Capital metrics in line with Defra’s Natural Capital Accounts, Natural England’s Natural Capital Indicators and Natural Capital Committee’s Natural Capital Valuation approach (Defra, 2020b). As a large-scale visitor attraction with a significant membership base, there’s notable potential for citizen science and public engagement.
The programme connects Wakehurst’s three great assets – its landscape, Kew Science, and visitors to research the value of nature for people, agriculture, and the environment. The programme will generate evidence for policy makers, best practice exemplars for land managers and new connections to nature. It runs initially for three years and has been jointly developed between Wakehurst and Kew Science’s Natural Capital and Plant Health. Initial research themes are pollination, carbon sequestration, wellbeing, and hydrology.
Project aims and expected outcomes
To explore the value of and develop indicators to measure RBG Wakehurst landscape’s ecosystem services and associated natural capital assets, focusing on human wellbeing, hydrological, carbon sequestration and pollination services.
Further aims of this research are:
- to define and measure the baseline and net environmental gain of RBG Wakehurst landscape’s natural capital assets and ecosystem services, ensuring the Natural Capital asset-based metrics developed are applicable to a range of stakeholders, landscape contexts and exemplars of best practice;
- to explore the ecosystem service value of engagement with RBG Wakehurst’s landscape, focusing on human wellbeing, hydrological, carbon sequestration and pollination services;
- to recommend ways of enhancing and continuously monitoring the value of ecosystem services associated with RBG Wakehurst’s landscape through the development of a long-term systematic monitoring programme;
- disseminate the insights relating to appropriate use of methods for assessing natural capital assets, ecosystem services and associated risks implications of future policy, bridging the gap between academic research and policy appraisal; and,
- to foster and share knowledge amongst a community of stakeholders (e.g. policy makers, land managers, economists, ecologists, NGOs, the public and academics), facilitating a deeper sense of awareness about the coupled socio-ecological system of interest.
Claude Rae Legacy