Getting research in to Parliament

On the iCASP office wall, amongst lists of current and developing projects, year planners and maps there is a brightly coloured poster about getting research in to parliament.  As iCASP is all about achieving impact from existing environmental science we do a range of activities to ensure iCASP’s work gets into parliament. Below is a summary of some of this activity

A new webpage on the iCASP website details some of our responses to various consultations and inquiries. These vary from the local to the national level and they draw on science right across the iCASP remit.  And it isn’t just written evidence. Recently Alison Dunn, who leads our Invasive Non Native Species project, was invited to attend and give oral evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee as part of their Invasive Species inquiry

Environmental Audit Committee oral evidence session as part of the Invasive Species inquiry

Written and oral evidence to inquiries and consultation isn’t the only way that iCASP and the people that work on iCASP projects get research in to parliament.

Another way of getting our work in front of MP’s and their researchers is talking to them directly.  Joe Holden Director of iCASP, was recently asked to meet with Alex Sobel MP and brief him on iCASP and the projects we are funding. iCASP has also met with MPs Rishi Sunak and Julian Sturdy out in the Yorkshire Dales to tell them about iCASP.

3 tweets showing direct engagement with MPs: Joe Holden meeting with Alex Sobel,  and Angela Smith speaking at Confluence 2018  and Alex Sobel at Confluence 2019 having both mingled with attendees in the morning break

Every year we invite an MP to give a key note talk at our annual Confluence event, and then plan the agenda to time their arrival to coincide with a break allowing them to talk to a range of people working across different iCASP projects. The Yorkshire catchment that iCASP covers is large so there are a lot of MP’s constituencies meaning the MPs we engage with will have different priorities depending upon constituency location. Many are involved with different select committees, have Ministerial roles or are in the shadow cabinet, or are involved with different APPGs based upon their personal interests. We had Angela Smith MP attend Confluence in 2018 and Alex Sobel joined us this year. This allowed us to engage with them as constituency MPs and also as members of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Environmental Audit Committees respectively.

Networking is another way that our researchers can get iCASP research in to parliament. This might be as simple as attending an event organised for parliamentarians such as the recent IUCN Peatlands meeting in the houses of parliament.

The work of researchers working on iCASP projects gets used in many different ways, one recent example is the report from ONS looking at the natural capital of UK peatlands which drew on the work of several iCASP researchers. Researchers can also act as external reviewers of articles, reports and papers having an input that way. iCASP director Joe Holden was an external reviewer for the recent POSTnote on Wildfires.

And finally, in these days of social media its very easy to get information in front of MPs directly by just responding to their questions, for example Holly Lynch MP recently asked the government about future plans for managing peatland responsibly, we were able to point her in the direction of our optimal peatland restoration work.

This is just a snapshot of some of the activities we’ve been involved with to get research into parliament; it demonstrates the diversity of opportunities available and demonstrates the need for researchers to continually engage with parliament at different levels to ensure their understanding and knowledge is based on the most up to date science available. We have a busy Autumn of consultation responses planned, but it’s worth the effort knowing that this will be influencing policy making and future policies that affect the catchment and all who live here.

Improving future flood resilience

iCASP will be involved with the new ‘Yorkshire Future Flood Resilience Pathfinder’ project led by City of York Council which won Government funding last week.

The project involves several iCASP partners including City of York Council and the Environment Agency and will encourage greater uptake of property flood resilience (PFR) measures across Yorkshire. It will draw upon existing projects and initiatives tackling flooding in the region and share best practice and provide training.

One of the more exciting aspects of the project will be the creation of a physical demonstration site in the form of a community hub and learning lab at Wilberforce College, Hull. The learning lab will have exhibits, physical models and demonstration PFR measures used to deliver training and awareness raising to a broad range of other projects, communities and people.

The Living with Water Partnership, who recently started an iCASP project on telemetry integration, will co-develop the learning lab and continue its management and delivery beyond the end of the pathfinder funding.

iCASP’s role in this pathfinder project will be to review the current awareness and adoption of PFR measures in communities and businesses across Yorkshire, and also across local authorities, planners and other professionals who promote, procure, design and deliver PFR interventions. This will take place at the outset of the pathfinder in September 2019, and then be revisited towards the end of the project to understand the reach and impact the pathfinder project and its interventions have had, and to make recommendations for future work and opportunities to develop the programme further.

Other links of interest:

UK Government press release on new funding for flood resilience

Hull City Council news item on learning lab

Living with Water news item

Natural flood management in the media

This week has seen the 12th anniversary of the 2007 floods which impacted across swathes of the UK and affected villages, towns and cities across Yorkshire. It is timely to look at some of the measures put in place since then to alleviate flooding in the future. Natural flood management (NFM) has had some coverage in the media recently with both the BBC and ITV reporting stories that cover activities iCASP projects are supporting.

Countryfile recently visited Hardcastle Crags near to Hebden Bridge to find out more about leaky dams and how they will help tackle flooding in the future. The NFM work in Hardcastle is as a direct result of the 2015 Boxing Day floods. iCASP has been working with the Environment Agency, JBA and the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust, amongst others, on monitoring and measuring the range of benefits of NFM measures such as the leaky dams seen in the programme. The main focus of iCASP’s work has been developing approaches to measure whether or not the dams work to deliver flood alleviation. A future focus of the work will be to help quantify the additional benefits of these types of interventions – such as more varied habitat for wildlife, improved water quality and enhanced well-being for visitors to the area – which will be vital for making the business case for future natural flood management measures.  Find out more about the Hardcastle Crags leaky dams from Countryfile

Images of leaky dams and volunteers by Slow The Flow Calderdale

Natural flood management encompasses a range of different measures, not just leaky dams. An ITV news report on tree planting in Hebden Bridge mentioned how this work will draw upon the expertise of iCASP later in the year to understand the impact of trees already planted. iCASP will be working on the project to help identify how features, such as trees and hedges, can absorb heavy rainfall and contribute to alleviating flooding, as well as investigating how different soil types and land covers also contribute to flooding. Decisions on where trees and hedges should be planted in the future, for optimal benefit, will be informed by a rainfall-runoff model developed at the University of Leeds.  Read the ITV report

These NFM activities rely upon a range of different partners getting involved. A diagram showing the range of different partner organisations, drawing from the voluntary, charitable, private, public and regulatory sectors, has been developed to give a flavour of the interactions in these activities in the Calderdale area.  View the interactive diagram

Giving evidence to a parliamentary committee

This week, Alison Dunn who leads the Invasive Non Native Species project gave evidence at the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into Invasive Species. iCASP had previously submitted written evidence to the inquiry and Alison was invited to attend the first evidence session where the Committee began to get an understanding of the issues that will shape the inquiry.

L-R: Mary Creagh MP (Chair of the EAC) with some of the witnesses from the enquiry, Professor Helen Roy (NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology), Dr Alison Dunn (iCASP, University of Leeds) and Professor Elizabeth Cottier-Cook (University of the Highlands and Islands and Scottish Association for Marine Science)

Some points that Alison made during her session include:

  • economically important impacts of invasive species on, for example, on the building trade and water companies
  • the importance of biosecurity to stop initial invasions, spread, or re-infestation
  • the unprecedented rate at which new species are being introduced
  • the reliance, in some cases, of biosecurity on voluntary agreements rather than legislation
  • the shift in climate that may affect whether an invasive species becomes problematic or not

Alison’s session can be seen on Parliament TV (begins at 11:36:00)

There is also a transcript of the session available

 

iCASP hosting Exercise Augustus – surface water flood forecasting and response workshop

Introducing participants to the day’s activities and where the forecasts and data they will be seeing comes from

This week iCASP hosted a workshop for a range of organisations across Yorkshire involved with flood preparedness and response, and national organisations responsible for producing flood forecasts and alerts. The workshop was run to test out how useful it could be to combine probabilistic rainfall forecasts (Met Office Global and Regional Ensemble Prediction System, MOGREPS) with high-resolution hydrodynamic modelling (JBA’s JFlow®) to provide localised surface water flood forecasts.

A mock incident response situation – Exercise Augustus – was run using JBA’s Exercise Management System (JEMS), which presented representatives from Yorkshire’s Local Authorities, flood action group leaders, Environment Agency, emergency services and Yorkshire Water with the ‘new’ forecasts based on a real flooding incident in Leeds to see how they responded to the information they were given, and what decisions and actions they would take as a result.

Screen grabs of some of the information participants were shown during Exercise Augustus

This kind of incident response scenario planning gives us an understanding of the kinds of information that incident responders find most useful in helping them make their decisions – both in advance of an incident and also as the incident is unfolding.

Participants discussing the data and information and what it means ‘on the ground’, and what decisions and actions to take as a consequence

The participants worked in four groups so that their thoughts on the information they were presented with, and the rationale for their decision-making, could be understood and captured. A report will be produced summarising the different responses of the groups that will allow iCASP partners to better understand the ways to present information to flood responders, and which kinds of information elicit the most appropriate responses to the situation.

 

 

 

 

The flood that Exercise Augustus was modelled on took place in Garforth, Leeds on August 22 2015.

Making the case for peatland restoration

A new digital publication to help peatland restoration projects make a strong case for investment has been produced by the Yorkshire Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP).

A ‘User Guide for Valuing the Benefits of Peatland Restoration’ explains very simply how different methods can be used to evaluate benefits such as flood risk reduction, carbon storage, water quality improvements and recreational amenity.

Read moreMaking the case for peatland restoration

Let’s talk nitrogen pollution

Photo credit: Andrew Walker, Yorkshire Water

An iCASP workshop aims to kick start an integrated catchment approach to reducing nitrogen pollution from farming. But as most excess nitrogen comes from agricultural activities, improvements will only happen if enough farmers get on board, so a quick  Have Your say questionnaire is available for farmers to influence the workshop even if they can’t come along. (Please feel free to forward this item if you know a farmer willing to share their experience)

High volumes of nitrogen in the water or in the air are harmful to human health, but most efforts to reduce them focus on a single impact or activity such as slurry spreading. An iCASP project, if designed well with input from farmers, researchers, Defra teams and regulators, could bring about a new approach with benefits for farm businesses and the environment.

An agenda and directions to the venue can be downloaded from the links below.

Nitrogen Workshop Final Agenda

Kings Manor Info

 

Read moreLet’s talk nitrogen pollution

Dealing with freshwater invaders

Workshop to design invasive species project

Hard pressed local authorities in Yorkshire are to get some support from iCASP  in dealing with the spread of watery invaders such as Giant Hogweed, a plant that causes long-term skin burning.

Last year’s costs for removing Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed from the Rivers Aire and Don was over a hundred thousand pounds. Although Yorkshire is currently largely free of Floating Pennywort, which clogs up waterways, costs of large infestations are huge. Once widespread it becomes almost impossible to eradicate this invasive species, resulting in spiralling annual costs of treatment. A new iCASP project will therefore help authorities to act now to prevent any spread.

Read moreDealing with freshwater invaders

Paying farmers for natural flood management

Photocredit: Andrew Walker, Yorkshire Water

A group of farmers are at the heart of an iCASP project which will be supporting the trial of a new national scheme for paying land managers to deliver benefits such as healthy soil or an increase in bees and other pollinators. The National Trust and Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority are running a ‘Payment for Outcomes’ trial with a group of  tenant farmers in the Yorkshire Dales which will help to test the feasibility of Defra’s new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS).

Read morePaying farmers for natural flood management

Weather Show

Following his presentation at the launch of the UK Climate Projections (UKCP18) in November, iCASP’s Ben Rabb, was interviewed on Radio Leeds for the regional Paul Hudson Weather Show.

Ben was able to explain how different types of flooding: coastal, fluvial (from rivers) and surface water caused by heavy rainfall are more likely to strike low lying areas such as Hull.

He also touched on the current drought that Yorkshire Water has declared and reminded residents of York and Leeds of all the flood alleviation work that is aiming to protect homes and businesses.

You can hear Ben on the online BBC Weather Show catch-up page at 31′ 27″ into the show.

RT @slowtheflow_UK: Pilot project using nature to tackle flooding launched in Earby gov.uk/government/new…

ICASP's Jenny and Ben up in Malham with @nationaltrust's Elizabeth scoping out NFM opportunities on a glorious day… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…

You may be interested in this recent paper on the #insurance value of #ecosystems and the need for a common approac… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…