Ecosystem Services and Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management

A NERC and Environment Agency funded project to examine the potential for integrating ecosystem services and the Ecosystem Approach into Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management (FCERM) activities at the Environment Agency. In particular, the work demonstrated the practicalities and challenges of incorporating ecosystem services assessments into FCERM maintenance activities. The work examined the policy drivers for delivering ecosystem services and the Ecosystem Approach in England, the current way in which FCERM is delivered and the key reasons why ecosystem services should be used in FCERM. It considered some of the key practicalities and issues in performing an ecosystem services assessment, using three case studies from different regions in England to illustrate its use. Finally, it obtained feedback on the approach from Environment Agency staff involved in the assessment process.

Findings – it was found that there was a mismatch between government policy statements and practical delivery of FCERM with regard to ecosystem services, although an ecosystem services assessment was considered to have many advantages for the Environment Agency. Three case studies were developed to illustrate the approach, using expert-based assessment of change in ecosystem service delivery under alternative management options. This proved to be an extremely useful approach, despite its relative simplicity. This level of assessment is quick and simple but was considered to be all that was required for straightforward maintenance issues. It was also found to be useful as an initial screening and information gathering exercise for more complex projects.

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Outcomes – detailed suggestions were presented on how to operationalize ecosystem services and the Ecosystem Approach at the Environment Agency, which were well received by senior management. The process developed for integrating ecosystem services into decision making was considered to be highly beneficial by EA staff and it has been reported that staff have taken forward this approach.

Further information: full report available here.