Strathard Ecosystem Services project:

Environmental benefits from integrating land and water management

Project update November 2015


This partnership[1] project aims to apply an ecosystem services framework to identify land management solutions in Strathard(fig 1),to reduce flood risk, deliver benefits for ecosystems and their services, and to manage natural resources sustainably in a changing climate.The project was initiatedfollowing a request from the Scottish Government’s Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment (RAFE) Delivery Board to improve joint working between public bodies. A key outcome being to improve working relationships between agencies, land owners and the community, resulting in more effective joined-up delivery of land and water management actions.

Fig.1. Strathard Project boundary, includes the Duchray Water and Loch Ard catchments

SEPA have developed a strategic level ecosystems services (ES) assessment method as part of their work programme on ES. The partnership are applying this approach to the Strathard area as the decision making process in helping to identify the most sustainable type, combination and location of forestry and land use management measures. The ecosystem approach is cited as a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way (The Convention on Biological Diversity, 1994). Through trialling such a joined up approach partners are looking to integrate several land use policies/drivers in Strathard, including flood risk, forestry design and management, river basin management planning, climate change adaptation and mitigation, tourism, recreation and biodiversity objectives. The Duchray Water, the main catchment in Strathard (identified as a potential demonstration catchment) is very rural, with steep sided mountainous tributaries, and two main land uses of forestry (Loch Ard Forest) and upland/rough grazing. The project involves working with the two key landowners and project partners, Forest Enterprise and Comer Estate, to identify measures to deliver multiple benefits. Specific opportunities include restoring peat habitat, improving habitat networks, trialling of natural flood management measures (such as woody debris dams (fig.2), creating flood storage areas, and influencing forestry design plans.

Community Engagement and Partnership working

Community engagement is at the heart of an ecosystem approach, working with the Community Partnership (an independent charity) we are engaging with the community/land managers to raise awareness of ES (benefits derived from the landscape), explore land and natural flood management options, and how the community can contribute to decision making. A range of techniques will be used to present and engage people with this information (spatial opportunity mapping, scenario case studies, interactive GIS).The community are revising their Community Action Plan (CAP) in 2015/16; we are aligning development of the CAP with the ES project methodology. Thus demonstrating how the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act2015 could be delivered in practice.

Fig.2 Woody debris dam, 1 of 150 dams deployed to ‘slow the flow’ in Pickering (DEFRA demonstration project)

Project Deliverables

A project plan (attached) and project methodology (v5) has been developed,and approved by the partnership on 20thOct 15. During October 2015 contracts were agreed with the Community Partnership (contract between LLTNP and the Community Partnership) and Forest Research (MOU between SEPA and Forest Research)to lead on key tasks. The project plan sets out key project deliverables, against project timeframe and lead partner. Current activity includes collating baseline ecosystem services data, utilising mapping tools, contacting key stakeholders and the community, to better understand how individuals value the landscape. Microfilm Scotland arecurrently working with the community to produce a film of the area, focusing on the landscape and the benefits the community derive from the Strathard area

Project budget

Projectspend for this financial year, 2015/16, includes Forest Enterprise (FE)contribution of £15k, £15375 of match funding from Forest Research; £6K contribution from LLTNP; and SEPA £15K (subject of MOU with Forest Research).

Budget projection for next year, 2016/17 (to be confirmed), is FE £20K, SNH £10K, SEPA £15K (R&D bid), LLTNP £10K, Forest Research £6200.

Project outputs

Outputs include producing a community minifilm (filming started Oct 2015), with a project launch event planned for February 2016. Deploying ES mapping tools, producing opportunity maps for use in community workshops (April 2016); and undertaking feasibility studies for proposed actions (March 2016). Developing a community engagement plan, and assisting the community in developing a Community Action Plan (draft June 16, final Sept 16), with a community celebration event planned for next October. The final project output report is due in Nov 2016, along with a Research proposal to quantify effects of proposed land management actions (Dec 2016), it is anticipate this will lead to on-the-ground land management trials in the Duchray catchment from 2017 onwards. It is hoped that this project will demonstratehow partnership working can achievealignment of land, forestry and water management best practice and deliver multiple benefits. And ultimately application of this ecosystem services approach beyond the project area, to catchments across Scotland.

Louise Bond, project co-ordinator

[1]A strong partnership steering group has been established, members include SEPA, Forest Enterprise, Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, Stirling Council, SNH and the Community Partnership. The Steering group is supported by two working groups: a ‘technical working group’, members include Forest Research, SEPA flood risk, hydrology and RBMP, and a ‘Community engagement & communications group’; members include local stakeholders, partner communications staff and the Community partnership.