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Projects

2007-2010: Catchment Management for the Protection of Water Resources

This project investigated how to extend the scientific and social accomplishments of innovative catchment management programmes in the USA, Australia and other European countries to the UK. A catchment management 'template' has been derived which compiles and assimilates scientific understanding and governance procedures as tested in actual decision making and management practice in case study catchments. The ‘template’:

  • provides a framework to integrate interdisciplinary assessment methods to protect water resources;
  • integrate scientific investigation with policy, governance and legal provisions;
  • foster decision-making and implementation at the appropriate governance level.

In the project researchers from SOAS, the University of East Anglia and Cornell University have worked in partnership with the Upper Susquehanna Coalition, the New York City Watershed, and the Hudson River Estuary Programme in the USA; groundwater protection programmes in the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany; and the Healthy Waterways Partnership in SE Queensland, Australia. Two UK catchments served as case studies against which the lessons from international experience were tested: the River Tamar and the River Thurne. A volume of international catchment management case studies with synthesis chapters that draw on the comparative and UK-based analyses completed during the project will be published by Earthscan in 2011.

The project was funded by the Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (RELU), a collaboration between the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), with additional funding from the Scottish Government and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of the UK Government. The RELU programme aims to advance understanding of the challenges facing rural areas in the UK. Interdisciplinary research is being funded between 2004 and 2012 in order to inform policy and practice with choices on how to manage the countryside and rural economies.

 

2010-2012: Innovative Market-Based Mechanisms and Networks for Long Term Protection of Water Resources

Faced with climate change, many of our catchments are already under stress from high demands for water and from diffuse and some point source pollution. The risk and severity of flooding may also be increasing. We need improved ways to protect water resources at source and alleviate flood risk. This requires change in land use and farming practices and the cooperation of land users. Advice and capital grants backed up by regulation can take us so far, but this project investigates how we may go further by incentivising landowners to set aside targeted areas of land with most beneficial effect for water protection.

The project will investigate ‘Payments for Ecosystems Services’ (PES) schemes. These involve a voluntary transaction in which a land use providing an environmental service is paid for by one or more beneficiaries. The project will partner and evaluate the Westcountry Rivers Trust’s WATER project in South West England, which aims to develop a market-based catchment restoration scheme.

Success will demonstrate a means to strengthen adaptive land management for water protection whilst maintaining viable farm businesses under conditions of environmental change. It is a key premise that a PES scheme for water protection requires networks, partnership working and creative knowledge exchange. Three key groups are: providers of environmental services (land managers); technical intermediaries (the agency managing the scheme); and beneficiaries of services (the people and organisations that pay).

Research outputs will include: a synthesis of global PES experience for water resources, assessment of farmer attitudes and costs, market analysis and stakeholder mapping, methods for targeting land use change and assessing resource protection benefits, assessment of risks of pollution swapping, and knowledge exchange and dissemination.

This project is being conducted as part of the Research Councils' Rural Economy and Land Use (Relu) Programme (Project: RES 224-34-2003-1). RELU is funded jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Natural Environment Research Council, with additional funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Scottish Government.

2011: Developing a catchment management template to mitigate non-point source pollution in China; a scoping study.

The pace of development in China has lead to rapidly increasing levels of non-point source pollution from many economic sectors. This is especially true in catchments that have been the seat of intensive agricultural production. A conference on China-UK Circular Agriculture was held in Beijing on August 30th to September 2nd 2010 under the auspices of the China UK Sustainable Agriculture Innovation Network (SAIN) - Working Group (WG4). After the conference it was agreed that a scoping study should be conducted to further the findings and conclusions of the conference and associated field visits, and to develop further China-UK collaborative research. This study is funded by the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), with co-funding from China’s Ministry of Agriculture.

The Scoping Study will investigate the potential to combine a ‘bioregional planning’ approach with circular agriculture in the context of intensive agricultural areas in China. A bioregional planning approach involves land use planning at a river catchment scale capable of delivering multiple ecosystem products and services; including food production, soil, air and water resources protection, flood mitigation and biodiversity enhancement. Within this planning framework, areas of land may be identified for intensive agricultural production facilitated by circular agriculture techniques to increase yields; whilst other areas are selected for less intensive agriculture where the protection of water resources and the provision of other ecosystem services are the priority. Less intensive areas in effect buffer or mitigate the impacts from the intensive areas, for example, by absorbing excessive nutrient run-off from areas characterised by intensive rice or corn production.  Less intensive areas can be linked to form a network of biodiversity rich zones capable of supporting multiple habitat and species types.  Overall, this framework has the potential to encompass minimal or no net loss in food production. 

Ultimately the aim is to develop a ‘catchment management template’ for use by Chinese policy makers.  Based on bioregional planning principles, this template will provide guidance on how to develop appropriate land use and land management (including circular agriculture techniques) plans to deliver sustainable food production systems.  Specifically, the template will enable the user to conduct an assessment of the necessary scientific data and analytical tools to develop a plan together with the stakeholder engagement and education programmes, economic incentives, regulatory instruments and governance systems required for successful implementation.

Given further funding this template will be tested in three catchments in China to guide the selection and application of appropriate land management measures such as riparian buffer strips, productive woodlands, protection measures over shallow groundwater aquifers and appropriate best practice prescriptions for farms and livestock facilities, and the development of the policy and implementation arrangements for these. The scoping study is a preparatory step required to identify the core principles and steps of the template, and to assess current information availability and capacity in China pertinent to its development. It will also assess the extent to which technical expertise and approaches from the UK and other OECD countries are relevant and transferable to the Chinese context. The work will include a study visit by a delegation from China to the UK.

 

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