Research-led programmes

The following initiatives, all of which are funded or led predominantly by researchers, are developing and communicating the knowledge base required for the application of an ecosystems approach. Some of these projects (such as BESS and RELU) include studies of particular areas of land or marine habitat.

UK National Ecosystem Assessment

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment was the first analysis of the UK’s natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and continuing economic prosperity. The report of the first phase was published in 2011, and the reports of a Follow-on Project in 2014.

Rural Economy and Land Use Programme

The Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) Programme aimed to advance understanding of the challenges rural areas face. It funded a wide range of interdisciplinary research aimed at informing future policy and practice with choices on how to manage the countryside and rural economies. The ongoing Landbridge Network arose from RELU and is for researchers and professions who advise farming and land-based businesses.

Biodiversity & Ecosystem Service Sustainability Programme

Biodiversity & Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS) is a six-year programme funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. It started in 2011 and is designed to address questions about the functional role of biodiversity in key ecosystem processes and the delivery of ecosystem processes at the landscape scale. Current BESS funds:

  • Urban BESS - based on the areas of Luton, Bedford and Milton Keynes
  • C BESS - including studies of Morecambe Bay and the Essex coastline
  • Wessex BESS - examining Wessex chalk landscape
  • DURESS - based on river catchments in Upland Wales

Valuing Nature Network

The first phase of the Valuing Nature Network aimed to build capacity in valuing biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resource use. It is expected that a second phase will commence in 2014 as part of a Valuing Nature Programme funded by government and the research councils. The first phase of the VNN programme included the BRIDGE project which is investigating how natural, social and economic science evidence on the benefits of biodiversity can used to develop more effective biodiversity conservation policies. Other projects are bringing together diverse areas of expertise to improve the valuation of ecosystem services flowing from from peatlands, coastal areas, lowland agricuture and freshwaters.

Scottish Government Research Programmes

Scottish Government is funding two five year (2011-16) interdisciplinary programmes of research. These are (1) an Environmental Change Programme, which includes research on identification and value of environmental assets, biodiversity and ecosystem services, and (2) a Food, Land and People Programme of research. As part of the Environmental Change Programme, the report Experiences of applying the Ecosystem Approach examines 24 land and marine case studies across the UK. Learn more about the Strategic Research Programmes.

Water Security Knowledge Exchange Programme

The Water Security Knowledge Exchange Programme was an initiative funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. The aim was to accelerate the uptake of research and help inform the direction of future science to ensure sustainable use of our water in the future.

NERC Virtual Observatory

The NERC Virtual Observatory was created to demonstrate that linking data, models and expert knowledge will provide cost effective answers to vital wide-ranging environmental issues, initially in the soil-water system.

International studies

Two major international initiatives that have consolidated our understanding about the benefits provided by the natural environment are: