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Managing Catchments for Multiple Benefits: Identifying Landscape Patterns and Ecosystem Services Bundles for Strategic Land Use Policy and Practice


   Hydro Nation

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  Prof C Spray, Dr A Geddes  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

How to balance the supply and demand of multiple ecosystem services is a key challenge for both the Hydro Nation agenda and across land use management in general (Raudseppe-Hearne et al., 2010). In the past, the focus has been on enhancing single services, often provisioning services such as crops, which has led to detrimental effects on many others, including nutrient cycling, flood regulation and recreation (MEA, 2005). To deliver the multiple benefits society demands from land use whilst sustaining the underlying capacity of the natural environment requires better understanding of the dynamics and interactions between ecosystem services and, critically bundles of services.
Assessing and mapping ecosystem services provides a conceptual framework (Everard, 2012) and a potential methodology for delivery of integrated catchment management (Vlachopoulou et al., 2014, Blackstock et al. 2015). However, ecosystem services mapping faces several challenges, including the lack of a common approach or tool, oversimplification, and generalization errors (Eigenbrod et al., 2010, Schägner et al., 2013, Vorstius & Spray 2015). Maps rarely recognise multiple delivery but are produced for single ecosystem services. Trade-offs and synergies between services have to be interpreted, which makes it harder to identify opportunities and estimate consequences of changes in catchment management. Maps also fail to adequately represent that water bodies deliver more than one service, thus making stakeholder engagement more difficult.
Bennett et al. (2009) illustrate how drivers can positively or negatively influence change in one or several ecosystems, leading either to a synergy if it influences several services in the same way or a trade-off if it influences one or several services negatively while influencing others positively. Raudsepp-Herne et al. (2010) produced a map of ecosystem services showing the presence of different bundles, linking them to areas characterised by distinct social-ecological dynamics. Other studies (e.g. Ruijs et al., 2013; Chan et al., 2006) have analysed trade-offs between services and some mapping tools incorporate models to show trade-offs (LUCI, http://www.lucitools.org/) or service flows (ARIES, http://www.ariesonline.org/).
However, these analyses do not consider landscape patterns and dynamics, although we know that ecosystem service delivery is also dependent on where ecosystems are positioned in a landscape (Medcalf et al 2012), and delivery can be maximised by strategically placing ecosystems within the wider landscape (UKNEA, 2014). This still leaves questions conceptually and practically as to how ecosystem service bundles differ across landscapes in composition, in time and space; how tightly they are bundled - in the sense of how they are integrated - and how they respond to management interventions. Sets of services appear to exist together repeatedly and may develop in response to distinct biophysical and socio-economic characteristics.
Any novel approach with respect to the recognition and management of bundles needs to be made applicable in practice, e.g. by classifying distinct bundles that can be mapped instead of single services. This includes being able to:
• Assess the spatial relationships between multiple services and underlying biophysical characteristics
• Determine a process that helps identify services that can be integrated to provide win-win scenarios and optimises integration of multiple ecosystem services through analysing trade-offs;
• Determine how biophysical, land use and socio-economical context influences this integration; and
• Define management practices that optimise the multiple benefits gained.
Mapping of bundles would enable management to strive for a balance between ecosystem services by focusing on larger service-producing areas, rather than trying to enhance specific services in the catchment. It would also make it easier to strategically favour and direct resources to land use options where they will have maximum impact on the desired mix of ecosystem services, something that for example would tie in with the spatial targeting that underlies the Scottish Rural Development Programme.

Funding Notes

Hydro Nation is a Scottish Government funded partnership between CREW, James Hutton Institute and all Scottish Higher Education Institutes. Funding for this four year scholarship will be in line with the Research Councils UK doctoral stipend levels and indicative fees. The studentship will be registered at the University of Dundee.

Applicants should have a first-class honours degree in a relevant subject or a 2.1 honours degree plus Masters (or equivalent). Hydro Nation Scholarships are awarded on competitive merit, taking into account the academic ability of the applicant. Shortlisted candidates will be interviewed in March 2016.
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