Working with large land owners

Last week iCASP facilitated a meeting with the National Trust and Water@Leeds to identify future opportunities for collaborative working.

The National Trust (NT) are one of the largest land owners in the UK, and around 40% of land in the UK drains into a watercourse which runs through a NT property. The Trust recognises it has a responsibility to restore environments to healthy, beautiful and well-functioning status as well as ensuring their ongoing management methods and practices maintain that status.  They’re not just seeking to help store carbon, reduce flooding and restore soil health, but do this whilst also ensuring the land they own remains beneficial to wildlife and people.

Staff from Water@Leeds and the National Trust meeting to discuss priorities, expertise and future ways of working (photo credit: Jenny Armstrong)

Collaborating with Water@Leeds will enable the Trust to feed into the latest research and development activities which in turn could increase the implementation of evidence-based management decisions across their properties. Collaborating with the Trust provides opportunities for researchers to trial innovative new activities in real world settings and access a wealth of information from those who live on and manage the land. iCASP can help to facilitate this collaboration by identifying the priorities of the National Trust and translating Water@Leeds research to help answer key questions to the challenges faced.

The meeting considered several ways of working together; from PhD studentships to research grants and fellowships. Possible collaborations were identified across a range of topics including water quality, habitat management and biodiversity enhancement, natural flood management and carbon management. These themes cut across a variety of catchments where both the Trust and University of Leeds researchers work.

The National Trust are already project partners on the iCASP Payment for Outcomes project that is seeking to include natural flood management (NFM) in the Trust’s Payment for Outcomes pilot. In turn the Trust’s pilot will inform Defra’s new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) and how a range of different measures to improve environmental outcomes can be included and paid for.  The iCASP project focuses on several of the Trust’s tenanted farms and aims to identify which NFM interventions are most suited to the farms and surrounding land, and pay farmers and land managers for the work they undertake to achieve these improvements.

Photos from visits to National Trust farms to identify sites for Natural Flood Management interventions as part of the Payment for Outcomes project (photo credit from L-R: Ben Rabb, Tom Willis, Poppy Leeder, Ben Rabb)

We hope to build on the partnership working already underway and facilitate more collaboration in the future to benefit the beautiful places owned and managed by the Trust for the benefit of us all.

 

Additional links that may be of interest:

National Trust Riverlands project

POSTnote on Natural Flood Management

Improving forecasting for surface water flooding

With much of the map of England lit up with flood warnings and alerts this morning, this serves as a timely reminder about the importance of ongoing work into flood forecasting.

Screen grab of the Gov.UK Flood Information Service

 

The recent iCASP project on Enhanced Surface Water Flood Forecasts (ESWFF) set out to try to enhance the forecasts that are issued to help decision making in the run up to, and during, a flood event. A wide range of people utilise these flood forecasts including the emergency services, flood planners in local authorities, water utilities and the Environment Agency.

The culmination of iCASP’s ESWFF project was a mock incident response workshop in April that used data from a previous flood incident to see if enhanced forecasts would lead to different decision making. Involving many different flood responders in the workshop gave useful insight into the value placed on different kinds of information, how decision makers use different pieces of information and how the information could be further improved for clarity and ease of use.

Tweets issued to warn the public about surface water flooding

 

Several recommendations came out of the project, including how to better support local authorities in their responses to surface water flooding, and further development and testing of user-centric surface water forecast information.

The executive summary, final report and a flyer about the project can all be freely downloaded:

Executive Summary (of final report)

Final Report

Flyer about the project

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.

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

 

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