Environment and Rural Affairs Monitoring & Modelling Programme ERAMMP Report-28B: Welsh Mountain, Moor and Heath (MMH) Condition Account

Dutton, A.; Jassi, J.; Jones, L.; Emmett, B.A.; Bentley, L.. 2023 Environment and Rural Affairs Monitoring & Modelling Programme ERAMMP Report-28B: Welsh Mountain, Moor and Heath (MMH) Condition Account. Bangor, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, 23pp. (UKCEH Project no. C06297, C210/2016/2017)

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1. Natural Capital Accounts for woodland, farmland and freshwater broad habitats were produced by ERAMMP in collaboration with the Office of National Statistics in 2017. These accounts estimated the combined partial asset value for these habitats to be £30.5 billion for 2014. A new monetary account has now been created for Mountain, Moor and Heath (MMH) habitat. This account estimates the MMH asset value to be £3 billion for 2018. 2. It is noted in all the reports produced that Office for National Statistics produced Natural Capital accounts remain experimental and future publications will be subject to methodological improvements. Also, it should be noted that all accounts only represent partial or a minimum valuation as methods are not available for all services. 3. This partial asset value for MMH is a relatively small asset figure – but it underlines how cheaply the products of the environment are rather than how important they are. The price is an important signal of levels of trade. If we are to decouple economic production and growth from environmental impact then the raw price ought to remain low with most value added upstream in the supply chain. If we were to look at the final consumer value of products from Welsh upland agriculture, it would be significantly higher. 4. For all of these accounts, the condition of the various broad habitats are not included explicitly as these are not typically represented in the reporting of many natural capital accounts by the Office of National Statistics. This means the rich set of condition data from the GMEP and ERAMMP National Field Survey and many other sources have not been exploited. These condition data are particularly important for assessing the underpinning resilience of ecosystems to sudden shocks. In addition, as standalone indicators these condition metrics help us to track the outcomes of policy (and other) interventions in improving the health of our ecosystems. 5. To test out the value of assessing condition data, this report presents a condition account for the Mountain, Moor and Heath (MMH) habitat. This is an important habitat for many cultural, provisioning and regulating services in Wales. The methodology used was informed by, but deviated to some extent, from the internationally accepted standard to increase the relevance for Welsh policy needs. 6. A first step was to agree which data would provide efficient, robust and repeatable information representative of the habitat condition. A participatory approach was taken to achieve this involving a range of actors to select the indicators which had greatest consensus as being appropriate and understandable to a broad audience. It was agreed, the relevance of these indicators to the delivery of a range of services and benefits should be the priority. A decision relating to a reference point was also needed i.e. how does current condition compare to either a theoretical ‘intact’ ecosystem, a reference year, or a policy target? A pragmatic approach was taken and the final selected reference point was based on the year(s) from which most historic data is available. 7. In summary, the trends reported for the final selected list of indicators in MMH since the 1990s (2010s only for some indicators) reported are: a) Water quality – a general improved in quality has been observed since the 1990s b) Soil quality - no change has been observed in 2 selected soil indicators since the 1990s c) Moorland Bird index – a decline has been observed which has stabilised since 2009 d) Habitat Connectivity - status but no trend data is available e) Protected sites – most are in unfavourable condition with little improvement observed over time f) Wildfires – increases have been observed since the 2010s g) Access – no trend data are available h) Visitor satisfaction – a high satisfaction rating is reported but no trend data is available 8. The monetary accounts for MMH suggest the value has been relatively stable over the time period for which we have enough data (2009-2018). This would seem to concur with these condition accounts where overall there is no ongoing decline but there is also only limited improvement observed. 9. In conclusion, there is a complex mix of drivers and policies interacting on the selected indicators. This is further confounded by different sensitivity of indicators to these drivers and variability in historic data sources. However there are some clear policy messages with respect to policy outcomes: a) major policy success (e.g. MMH water quality recovering from acidification) b) partial policy success halting decline (e.g. Moorland Bird Index; stability in soil indicators) c) outstanding policy needs (e.g. no improvement in status of protected sites; increase in wildfire frequency). 10. Availability of new sources of data will allow improvement going forward in any future condition accounts. For example not all sources of GMEP/ERAMMP data were explored due to lack of availability of ONS staff resources due to their heavy engagement in the covid response. One recommendation is to increase engagement with the ONS team to ensure more effective use of Welsh data streams going forward even in the creation of UK accounts. A priority going forward is to develop methods to better embed these condition indicators in the monetary accounts.

Item Type: Publication - Report (Project Report)
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
Funders/Sponsors: Welsh Government
Additional Keywords: ERAMMP
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Date made live: 22 Nov 2023 09:57 +0 (UTC)

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