• A POSTnote on strategic approaches to ecosystem services will provide an overview setting out the challenges of conserving ecosystems and their services efficiently.
  • It will review the scientific evidence needed to support integrated management of ecosystem services.
  • It will examine the potential effectiveness of different approaches and the policy needed for delivery across scales.
  • This POSTnote has now been published.

Ecosystem services are the benefits that natural systems provide to humans such as drinking water, climate regulation and food. The UK undertook a national assessment of the state of ecosystem services in 2011, and the Government’s 25-year Environmental Plan has pledged to repeat this by 2022. This POSTnote will summarise the challenges of integrated management of ecosystem services, such as the “wholescape thinking” approach, and the evidence needed to inform this work.

Ecosystem services are the benefits nature provides for human health and well-being, for example flood protection, pollination and climate regulation. These essential ecosystem services are becoming more challenging to secure because of environmental change driven by human activities. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) 5 th assessment report has highlighted how the increasing intensity of conventional agriculture, such as pesticide use and removal of natural features, drives biodiversity declines. The “State of Nature 2019” report has also highlighted declines on the 72% of UK land managed for agriculture.

The Government’s 25-year Environmental Plan sets out several goals and targets to ensure the environment is protected for future generations by using “public money for public goods”. The Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) will develop the principles for land management policies based on the idea of natural capital – the value of the natural environment for people and the economy. ELMS is replacing the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), whereby farmers are paid for their individual contribution by the amount of land they manage. This will phase out from 2021 over the next 7 years, with the options for future financial assistance set out in the Agriculture Bill.

The key challenge is to develop a landscape led approach that will deliver multiple benefits from the same patch of land, as well as integrating and incentivising communities at larger scales. For example, the “wholescape thinking” approach, developed by the Natural Capital Initiative, aims to establish effective environmental partnerships by bringing together interest groups across government, civil society and business. This concept is under development and has yet to be put fully into practice but is one integration option.

The aims of this POSTnote are to provide MPs and Peers with an overview setting out the challenges of conserving ecosystems and their services efficiently. It will review the scientific evidence needed to support integrated management of ecosystem services. It will examine the potential effectiveness of different approaches and the policy needed for delivery across scales.