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  • 2020DeedMSc

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A re-wetted land use capability assessment for the North West of England

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

  • James Deed
Publication date17/01/2020
Number of pages127
QualificationMasters by Research
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • Cumbria Wildlife Trust
  • Environment Agency, UK
Award date31/01/2020
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


In the wake of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, there has been an increased agenda surrounding the provision of ecosystem services within the UK’s landscapes, highlighting the need for sustainable forms of agriculture. This coincides with recent changes to how the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) allocate funding for artificial land drainage; focusing on the protection and people and property, instead of sparsely-populated rural land. With the proposed withdrawal from current drainage practices, large areas of low lying land will likely experience re-wetting, creating conditions unsuitable for conventional agriculture. This provides a unique opportunity for decision-makers to implement novel and innovative forms of management strategies that tackle the challenges faced by land uses
dependent on drainage.

The aim of this study is to adopt an ecosystem service-based approach in creating a decision support framework that quantifies the current provision of these services, signifying the potential benefits and implications associated with a change in the status quo. Two similar, yet subtly different study catchments were analysed within the context of re-wetting; the Alt Crossens (Merseyside) and Lyth Valley (Kendal). The Land Utilisation and Capability model (LUCI) was adopted to generate informative outputs that represent the provision of seven
different ecosystem services. Paludiculture, the productive use of wet peatlands, was examined to determine the feasibility in providing an inclusive solution to stakeholders in areas anticipated to experience re-wetting. It was identified that the return of wetland conditions, combined with the transition away from conventional agriculture, there was an improvement in the provision of flood mitigation, carbon sequestration and storage, as well as decreased levels of nitrogen and phosphorus loading in both areas. Given the low economic
value associated with improved grasslands, there was a net increase in the economic return where paludiculture was present. Whereas in the Alt Crossens, an area dominated by arable farming, there was a clear net loss in the economic value of the land. However, the creation of a phased-approach in limiting the withdrawal of land drainage and subsequent extent of land drainage, was shown to limit the economic and agricultural losses, whilst allowing land
users to realise the full potential of multiple ecosystem service provision.