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Healthy ecosystems provide services that are essential for our quality of life, including clean air and water, food, a stable climate, protection against flooding and soil erosion, and attractive green space for inspiration and recreation. The value of the 'natural capital' that underpins these services is increasingly recognised by policymakers. 'Green infrastructure' and 'nature-based solutions' can be cost-effective approaches for addressing urgent societal problems, with multiple benefits for health and well-being, disaster risk reduction, climate mitigation and inclusive economic development.

However, natural capital and the services it provides are under threat from human impacts, including climate change. It is also increasingly clear that new approaches to conservation are needed, which recognise that nature and people are inextricably linked in social-ecological systems. Our research aims to increase understanding of these complex human-climate-ecosystem interactions, to develop more effective policies for managing our natural capital. We are at the forefront of integrating and improving techniques for observing and projecting the effects of environmental change on species, ecosystems and the services they provide. We are also researching adaptation options for biodiversity and how mitigation and adaptation measures in other sectors might impact on biodiversity. More specifically we are involved in:

  • mapping, assessing and valuing natural capital, green infrastructure and ecosystem services;
  • using sectoral and integrated modelling techniques to project changes in the potential distributions of species and ecosystems at local, regional and global scales and to assess their adaptive capacity and vulnerability to climate change;
  • investigating the role of adaptation and mitigation measures in different sectors in offsetting the projected changes and their impacts on biodiversity;
  • costing adaptation in natural ecosystems to climate change;
  • developing a user-friendly, interactive and web-based platform for stakeholder-led climate change adaptation and vulnerability assessment which explicitly evaluates cross-sectoral interactions between the key sectors driving landscape change in Europe;
  • quantifying the contribution of different organisms, and the effects of various drivers of change, on the provision of ecosystem services;
  • assessing the implications of the above for conservation policy and management.

Current projects

openness
  • Funding: NERC
  • 2016-2017
  • ECI Lead: Dr Pam Berry and Alison Smith

Tools for planning and evaluating green infrastructure - Bicester and beyond

Green infrastructure (GI), such as parks, street trees and water features, can provide a range of benefits including flood protection, carbon storage, space for recreation and habitat for wildlife. Working closely with local planners and other stakeholders in Bicester and beyond, the ECI and partners Forest Research will test a range of practical tools for mapping and assessing GI, and develop clear step-by-step guidance to help users select and apply the best tools to meet their needs.


openness
  • Funding: EU FP7
  • 2012-2017
  • ECI Lead: Dr Paula Harrison

Operationalisation of Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services (OpenNESS)

OpenNESS aims to translate the concepts of Natural Capital (NC) and Ecosystem Services (ES) into operational frameworks that provide tested, practical and tailored solutions for integrating ES into land, water and urban management and decision-making. It examines how the concepts link to, and support, wider EU economic, social and environmental policy initiatives and scrutinizes the potential and limitations of the concepts of ES and NC.


High end scenarios
  • Funding: EU FP7
  • 2013-2018
  • ECI Lead: Dr Paula Harrison

Impacts and Risks from High-End Scenarios: Strategies for Innovative Solutions (IMPRESSIONS)

This project aims to support decision-makers through the co-production of a set of innovative and effective policy strategies and measures in key social, economic, and environmental sectors based on an improved quantification and assessment of the cross-sectoral impacts and vulnerabilities associated with high-end scenarios, and by appraising the risks, opportunities and uncertainties for different adaptation and mitigation pathways to address these impacts and vulnerabilities across different scales.


Completed Projects


Besafe
  • Funding: EU FP7
  • 2011-2015
  • PI: Dr Pam Berry

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services: Arguments for our future Environment (BESAFE)

The project will use case studies to investigate how much importance people attribute to alternative arguments for the protection of biodiversity and in particular how this relates to ecosystem services. It will also examine the interactions of environmental protection policies between governance levels and will consider the contribution that valuing ecosystem services can make in demonstrating the value of biodiversity. The results will be used as guidance on the effectiveness of alternative arguments and formulating of biodiversity protection strategies applied at the level of EU and member countries.

Full list of archived ecosystem related projects.

Operationalisation of Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services (OpenNESS)