The six-year (2012-2017) Wessex BESS project looked at how biodiversity underpins the ecosystem functions and services that lowland agricultural landscapes provide.
Lowland landscapes deliver a number of important ecosystem services (e.g. food production, water quality, cultural services) but are increasingly subject to rapid change from a number of environmental drivers such as climate change, urbanisation, and market-driven land use change. The Wessex BESS work focused on the chalk landscapes of Wiltshire, Hampshire and Berkshire, where the predominant land use is intensively-managed arable and improved grassland.
Aims and Activities
Researchers from eight institutions (CEH Wallingford, Cranfield University, University of Exeter, University of Manchester, University of Reading, University of Lancaster, J.K. Pell Consulting and the RSPB) carried out investigations that were divided into five work packages:
- Integrated ecosystem service modelling - examined the relationships between different ecosystem services under various land-use scenarios.
- Climate regulation - how do changes in plant diversity influence the processing of carbon and nitrogen in the soil which in turn underpins the ecosystem services of climate regulation and forage production.
- Water-related services - what is the role of aquatic biodiversity in fisheries and water quality.
- Invertebrates and crops - impacts of invertebrate biodiversity on crop production through pollination and pest regulation activities.
- Cultural services - explored biodiversity, cultural services, and well-being across agricultural landscapes, with particular focus on landscape, nature conservation, recreation, heritage and sense of place and belonging.
Full details of the objectives and outputs of the Wessex BESS Consortium can be found on its website.