Paying for Nature's Services

About this project

This is a collection of projects led by Dr Mark Reed (unless otherwise stated) that are investigating Payments for Ecosystem Services:

All life on Earth depends upon services from nature, but many human activities generate income from nature for individuals, at the expense of the services that the rest of us need: things like clean drinking water and a stable climate. If however, society were to pay those who own the land for the services they demand, then this may create more of an incentive to manage the land for a wider range of benefits.

Mark’s work has analysed literature and case studies from around the world to identify barriers and opportunities for Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) in the UK (which fed into the development of DEFRA’s 2011 Natural Environment White Paper), and has led to the production of DEFRA’s PES Best Practice Guide. In collaboration with Alister Scott and others, Mark is running two PES Pilots for DEFRA. One is investigating the potential for Visitor Payback schemes to enable members of the public to pay for ecosystem services via smart phone apps in the Lake District National Park. The other is developing a UK Peatland Carbon Code to finance peatland restoration schemes across the country using payments for carbon.

As a forerunner to this national scheme, Mark is working with colleagues from Harper Adams University and the University of Leeds on a NERC internship with South West Water to develop a peatland carbon and biodiversity scheme to sit alongside their existing scheme to pay land managers to deliver clean water. However, monitoring the carbon and other benefits of peatland restoration can be expensive, so in research funded by DEFRA and Natural England, Mark is working with colleagues from Crighton Carbon Centre and URS to develop a metric that can infer Greenhouse Gas fluxes after restoration from changes in bog vegetation.

All of this work is being underpinned by work on theory and methods for PES being conducted as part of NERC’s Valuing Nature Network. Using a peatland case study, this project is investigating how different types of people value changes in nature’s services and exploring how these insights might be applied in the design of PES schemes for the private sector, and as part of agri-environment schemes.