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2 April 2015


Diversity of Upland Rivers for Ecosystem Service Sustainability

Duress is a £3 million National Environment Research Council funded project which has been assessing the role of Biodiversity as central to the sustainable delivery of upland river ecosystem services under changing land-use and climate. Led by researchers at the Sustainable Places Research Institute, Cardiff University, this project has brought together more than 30 researchers from a range of disciplines and institutions and is supported by 7 actively involved stakeholders who represent the water industry, the leisure industry, policy makers, land owners and land managers.

The UK's water infrastructure is valued at over £200 billion and worth over £10 billion per year meaning that Britain's 389,000 km of river ecosystems are among our most important natural assets. They provide water and other major ecosystem services such as regulating floods and water quality, supporting adjacent ecosystems with energy and nutrients, and large cultural value for charismatic organisms, recreation, and education.
The DURESS project has been investigating how organisms and ecosystem functions maintain river ecosystem services. This is crucial knowledge because they are affected by pollution, catchment land use and climate change.  The cost implications of these effects are large, for example for recreational fisheries, water treatment and high-value river biodiversity. By contrast, there is large potential to manage rivers and their catchments positively to increase the ecosystem service value of rivers by enhancing beneficial in-river organisms.

The DURESS project intends to help those communities who live, work and depend on the UK's uplands who are most effected by the changing climate, evolving resource demands and economic uncertainty. The project which began in May 2012 is now coming to an end and the team are in the process of distributing their findings about what the future could look like. From an analysis of drivers of change, and a review of historic changes in the uplands since World War 2, DURESS researchers have considered four possible scenarios to 2050:

Agricultural Intensification - Maximising food and fibre production becomes crucial to meet the challenges of food security and increasing global demand.

Managed Ecosystems - Ecosystem integrity is pro-actively enhanced to safeguard water, carbon and nature through either public funding of agri-environment schemes or because the market value of these services increases.

Business as Usual - Publically funded agri-environment continues to deliver social benefits and ecosystem services.

Abandonment - Land becomes abandoned as a result of market or regulatory failure of the other three scenarios, leading to rapid decline in production and unmanaged development of quasi-natural habitats.

The report which can be found here is to be distributed to policy makers and land managers to gain an understanding of how the UK's uplands could develop over the next 30-40 years.

If you would like to find out more please email or visit the website

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