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Monday, October 20, 2008

Conservation, Biodiversity , Living Landscapes and the Ecosystem Approach.

Somerset Wildlife Trust and in deed all county wildlife trusts are pushing hard for funding to establish Living Landscape areas as the best and most effective way of protecting wildlife for the long term.

The SWT AGM heard a great deal about such efforts in Somerset and I have attended meetings on the subject to find out more about this significant development in conservation thinking. An important and quite technical aspect which underlies the way conservation is linked to biodiversity and ecosystems management is summarised in the notes included below.

This is my own summary of a presentation given by Diana Pound who runs a consultancy called:
dialogue matters

The Ecosystem Approach
What is it all about?
Discussions with others about the Ecosystem Approach usually include whether or not it matters that so many different terms are being used – sometimes to mean the same thing and sometimes the same phrase is used to mean different things. The phrases being used include: Ecosystem Approach, ecosystems approach (lower case sometimes used deliberately to denote something different), ecosystem-based approach, ecosystem function approach, ecosystem services approach, and ecosystem thinking.

If this change in language means we are all starting to think more holistically then that can only be a good thing. If on the other hand, our casual use of these terms is confusing each other, watering down what they mean, resulting in us reinventing wheels, and missing out on realising that (particularly for the Ecosystem Approach) there are well-developed principles and guidance that could, when implemented, deliver good practice in management and genuine sustainability, then there is a problem.

The Ecosystem Approach
The Ecosystem Approach has been adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as the main way of delivering genuine sustainability and the primary framework for action. It is defined as ’a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way’ (CBD).

To guide implementation the CBD has agreed 12 Ecosystem Approach principles and 5 points of Operational Guidance and provided implementation guides.

The 12 ecosystem approach principles are:

1. The objectives of management of land, water and living resources are a matter of societal choice.
2. Management should be decentralised to the lowest appropriate level.
3. Ecosystem managers should consider the effects (actual or potential) of their activities on adjacent and other ecosystems.
4. Need to understand and manage the ecosystem in an economic context.
5. Conservation of ecosystem structure and function to provide ecosystem services should be a priority.
6. Ecosystem must be managed within the limits of their functioning.
7. The approach should be taken at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales.
8. Process and objectives for ecosystem management should be set for the long term.
9. Management must recognise that change is inevitable.
10. Seek the appropriate balance between integration, conservation and use of biodiversity.
11. Decision-making should consider all forms of relevant information (scientific, indigenous and local).
12. Involve all relevant sectors of society and scientific disciplines.

The 5 points of operational guidance are:

1. Focus on the relationship and processes within the ecosystem.
2. Enhance benefit sharing.
3. Use adaptive management practices.
4. Carry out management actions at the scale appropriate to the issue, with decentralisation to the lowest level appropriate.
5. Ensure intersectoral co-operation.

The 12 principles plus explanation can be seen at:;

The 5 points of operational guidance at:

Implementation Guides
Advanced: .

The ecosystem services approach The ecosystem services approach has a focus on understanding and quantifying the services the natural environment provides for us, and then managing the environment so that the provision of these services is sustained over the long term.

The approach is defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment as a way of “identifying, valuing and enhancing the goods and services that the ecosystem provides for us by conserving ecosystem structure and function in a way that ensures these services can be provided over the long term”.

Services include:
• Supporting services: The services that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services including soil formation, photosynthesis, primary production, nutrient cycling and water cycling.
• Provisioning services: The products obtained from ecosystems, including food, fibre, fuel, genetic resources, biochemicals, natural medicines, pharmaceuticals, ornamental resources and fresh water;
• Regulating services: The benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes, including air quality regulation, climate regulation, water regulation, erosion regulation, water purification, disease regulation, pest regulation, pollination, natural hazard regulation;
• Cultural services: The non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experiences – thereby taking account of landscape values;
In effect, this is a focus on Principle 5 of the 12 Ecosystem Approach principles.

Millennium Assessment
Ecosystem Services

The following terms are also used – working definitions are provided

ecosystem function:
Includes the following:
The flows of energy, nutrients, minerals, and water within a system.
The spatial and temporal processes which include connectivity and succession.
The sensitivity and resilience of the system.
The predator prey relationships, age structure of species, and whether or not all trophic levels are present and functional.
The effect of human interventions on ecosystem function arising from extracting and harvesting resources or disposing of waste.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Educational project: The Kingfisher Project

Following on from my September 7th post( which including photos) I have also sent this write up for publication in the Wildlife Trust's next magazine.

The Kingfisher Project.

Somerset Wildlife Trust was part of a fantastic schools learning project this summer which was the brainchild of poet laureate, the late Ted Hughes. The Scheme has been running successfully in Devon since 1992.
The Kingfisher Award Scheme was set up in Somerset by Michael Brown who recently retired from running the Brown and Forrest Smokery in Hambridge.
Its objective is to make children aware of the relationship between wildlife and farming; to look at habitats in detail, and to inspire them generally with a life-long interest in the country.
It is funded by a small number of donors, farmers and landowners and by Michael Brown himself running a marathon!
Children from six primary schools ( approx 180 children over three days) visited a farm near Curry Rivel to learn about wildlife in the open, and by discovery which are the two main themes of the Kingfisher Award - and having fun!
Children were also able to see close up a live barn owl and learnt how they hunt and what they eat by dissecting owl pellets (very popular!). They were able to look at the skulls of small mammals and follow this up by seeing how they can be studied by trapping voles, mice and shrews, to be released unharmed back in their habitat.
Dudley Cheesman SWT Council Member and chair of the Somerset branch of Butterfly Conservation, showed some live specimens of local butterflies and moths.
David German, chair of the Heart of the Levels Area Group was one of the project volunteers

Back in the classroom children spent a month working together to research and create displays that reflected their experience in the field.
Their work was judged at a special presentation day at Home Farm, Curry Rivel.
A panel of three judges (including SWT’s Lisa Schneidau, responsible for the Wildlife Trust’s Living Landscape projects and Jean Cheesman and farm owner Henry Lang) talked to the children about their work before prizes were awarded.
First prize of a hand carved Kingfisher Trophy as well as a day in class with the famous willow worker, Serena de la Hay, went to Curry Mallet Primary School Runners-up were Huish Primary School.
Next years project is scheduled for June 8th 2009.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Brief comment on our group

Just sent this 150 word news item for publication in the Somerset Wildlife Trust magazine. See links on this blog for SWT.
We have our AGM this week which will need a little more detail but not too much!!

Heart of the Levels Group write up for SWT Mag Oct 05.10.08

Our Group continues to develop which is very encouraging.
More local people know about us and support us in many ways without the formality of being on the committee. That is good for us and for wildlife.
We welcome two new members of the committee which is also very satisfactory.
Good progress continues to save a local wildflower meadow in Curry Rivel. Visits welcome
Our two recent events dealing with wildlife gardening proved very popular and has prompted efforts to develop some form of wildlife gardening club. We hope to link with existing clubs in our area. Visits to member’s gardens, whatever size, will be a main feature. Enquiries welcome.
Our plans for 2009 include a June barbeque and a repeat of our very successful Art and Wildlife workshop.
Finally a huge thank you for all your support.