Defra’s flagship agri-environment scheme, Environmental Stewardship, covers nearly 60% of England’s farmed countryside and has an annual budget of around £260 million. LUC undertook a study to provide Defra, and Natural England which administers the scheme, with valuable analysis to help them ensure that the scheme delivers the full range of potential public benefits from the countryside.
Environmental Stewardship (ES) offers farmers a wide range of land management options through two main tiers (Entry Level and Higher Level) each of which can potentially deliver a number of benefits, or ecosystem services. Our study examines how 159 different ES options can provide any of 23 ecosystem services. It analyses differences in the uptake by farmers of these 159 options across 156 of England’s National Character Areas (creating a 3D matrix with nearly 600,000 cells) and it maps the potential spatial impact of the scheme for different services.
The study makes an important distinction between the services that are already delivered by different forms of land use and management and the additional value that can be added by ES options. It also recognises that the precise location of many of the land use and management options is critical if the potential benefits are to be realised. We explored these issues through a series of case studies using a typology of agricultural land use. We then made a number of suggestions for the future development of the scheme.
The ecosystem services approach is being used increasingly in public policy development. This study was one of the first in the UK to apply this approach to a major delivery mechanism and the findings of the research have a wide relevance to environmental and land use policy across the UK. We successfully used complex data and GIS analysis to reach concise conclusions that are now feeding into reviews of this developing area of public policy.