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Increasing pressures such as climate change, population growth and habitat fragmentation (driven by human land use) are affecting the delivery of environmental benefits, such as clean water, carbon storage and provision of food, essential for human health and wellbeing. Fragmented land management approaches have failed to protect the biodiversity that underpins the provision of these benefits, with patches of isolated semi-natural habitat vulnerable to damaging events and degradation, and species may be unable to move between them. The Natural Capital Committee have stated that managing land uses without overall coordination will contribute further to environmental degradation. If the management of land use remains fragmented, the UK will fail to meet 2050 net-zero emissions targets and most of the Convention on Biological Diversity global 2020 targets. 

To safeguard delivery of environmental benefits an integrated approach is required, rather than managing land uses in isolation. The delivery of environmental benefits can be assessed by using a natural capital and ecosystem services framework, which can provide information that could inform decisions. Successful implementation of integrated management will require promoting partnerships across landscapes between organisation, communities, and landowners, to optimise delivery of multiple desired benefits from the same areas of land and minimise conflicts. This includes working with widespread communities, sufficient mapping and modelling of landscapes, and continual monitoring of environmental outcomes while management is underway. There has previously been a lack of systematic long-term monitoring of habitat condition, which is a key indicator of the health of the environment. Benefits of integrated land use on a large scale include increased resilience to extreme weather events and enhanced sustainability of agriculture systems. Barriers to the implementation include different approaches to governance and administrative boundaries. The Agriculture Bill and Environment Bill contain measures that may provide opportunities to support benefits provision at the landscape scale and private sector investment and NGO projects can support delivery of environmental benefits and address biodiversity loss.

Key Points in this POSTnote include:

  • Fragmented land management approaches have failed to protect the biodiversity that underpins the provision of multiple benefits essential for human health and well-being.
  • There have been initiatives to integrate management choices across landscapes to provide environmental benefits.
  • A key challenge is encouraging partnerships between organisations, communities and landowners, to deliver multiple desired benefits from the same areas of land.
  • The Environment and Agriculture Bills contain measures that may provide opporunities to support benefit provision at the landscape scale, such as the Nature Recovery Network and the Environmental Land Management scheme.

Acknowledgements

POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:

Dr Alison Smith, Oxford University*

Ruth Waters, HM Treasury

Alice Lord, Natural England*

Dr Patricia Rice, Natural England*

Jane Lusardi, Natural England*

Dr Colm Bowe, Liverpool John Moores*

Professor Michael Acreman, Independent

Professor Georgina Mace, University College London

Professor Ian Bateman, University of Exeter*

Dr Sara Zonneveld, University of Exeter*

Professor Edward Maltby, University of Liverpool

Martin Baxter, IEMA

Tom Curtis, 3Keel

Professor David Gowing, Open University

Natasha Bradshaw, University of the West of England.

Professor Robin Pakeman, The James Hutton Institute*

Dr Lisa Norton, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

Andrew Griffiths, Landscape Enterprise Network

Dr Alison Holt, Natural Capital Solutions*

Max Hislop, The Glasgow and Clyde Valley Green Network

Alice Groom, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Rebecca Moberly, Environment Agency*

Luke Newbey, Environment Agency*

Ece Ozdemiroglu, EFTEC

Steve Spode, Welsh Government

Dave Stone, Natural England*

Claire Wansbury, Atkins*

Ann Skinner, Independent*

Professor Elizabeth Fisher, University College London*

Dr Mark Everard, University of the West of England.

Professor Mark Reed, Newcastle University

* denotes contributors who reviewed the note at external review


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