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This project aims to improve land and water management decisions in Strathard, a rural area of western Scotland located in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. In order to develop more sustainable and resilient land and water management plans, an ecosystems approach is being used. In its most basic form, an ecosystems approach is the acknowledgement that natural and human systems are interconnected. Nature provides many goods and services, from the food that we eat to natural flood management. By improving the way the land is managed we can increase the benefits we get from nature now and into the future.
In order to improve land management decisions an assessment of what benefits we currently gain from our surroundings was needed. Led by SEPA and working with a number of project partners this project aims to achieve this using a range of techniques to gather information on ecosystems and their services. An important part of the ecosystems approach is taking into account the views of different stakeholder groups and local communities. We did this using surveys, participatory GIS (geographic information systems) mapping, and community events.
The information gathered from the communities and stakeholders are being integrated with outputs from more detailed modelling of selected ecosystem services, using approaches developed by Forest Research’s Land Use and Ecosystem Services and Changing Physical Environment Science Groups.
The results are being used to evaluate and compare the effects of different land and water management actions. By considering the wider impacts and benefits of these actions, improved management decisions can be made which address the needs of the local communities whilst promoting sustainable use of the land.
Create strong working relationships and dialogue with local communities:
During the first phase of this project we developed methods to capture relevant information from local people, and as part of this created two online surveys, one for the local community and one for visitors. These were used in conjunction with other public engagement at a wide range of community engagement events run by the Strathard project partnership, including:
Collect data on ecosystem services:
During the first phase of this project we developed methods to collect and compile a wide range of environmental and social data to map ecosystem services. Habitats were mapped using the EUNIS habitat classification system and the likely capacity of these habitats to provide each ecosystem service was quantified and mapped. These data were collected via online surveys, community events, interviews and expert opinion. The Land Use and Ecosystem Services Science Group also provided more detailed, site specific modelled data for some ecosystem services.
An ecosystem condition assessment was carried out using a variety of spatial analysis tools and models combined with the best available spatial data for Strathard. A number of patch and landscape scale indicators of habitat condition were developed and mapped for priority habitats in Strathard. The results can be used to spatially prioritise actions and resources in an effort to strategically improve habitat condition across the landscape.
Hydrology assessments of water quality and flow:
Through hydrological modelling in GIS we identified suitable locations for natural flood management features across the site, including a site within the Duchary catchment where the project partnership hope to provide a woody debris dam demonstration and monitoring site (subject to funding).
We have used the collated data and modelled outputs in a GIS to develop opportunity maps to help target a range of priority management actions:
The first phase of this project started in October 2015. Based on the information collected to date, funding opportunities and available resources, the partnership are prioritising actions and developing action plans to take forward during 2017-2019. As part of this, Forest Research’s Huw Thomas is now working with the Cowal and Trossachs Forest District to help lead a natural flood management strategy and monitoring programme, which will include a demonstration leaky woody dam in the Duchray catchment in 2018.
This project is co-funded by Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), Forest Enterprise Scotland, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority (LLTNPA), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), with support from partnership agencies Stirling Council and the Community Partnership.
SEPA initiated this project following a request from the Scottish Government’s Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment (RAFE) Delivery Board to improve joint working between public bodies. The Duchray catchment in Strathard was identified as a suitable trial location for developing a strategic level ecosystems service assessment to support sustainable decision making in land use and water management. The role of Forest Research is to conduct an ecosystem service assessment and identify potential suitable locations for action plans through data collection and analysis.
Forestry Commission policy
The Forestry Commission implements Government policy on both woodlandbiodiversity and sustainability