Heritage, natural capital and ecosystem services: Lower Severn Vale

Peter Gaskell is undertaking this work for Historic England together with John Powell, Paul Courtney, Rob Berry and Jeremy Lake between January 2018 and September 2018.

The key aim of this project is to create a research methodology to improve the assessment of values arising from the historic environment in order to contribute to improved decision making. The research will provide guidance for the wider heritage sector on ways to incorporate the concepts of natural capital and ecosystem services.

This project will use a range of existing and ongoing work including data on boundaries in the Lower Severn Vale, resulting from a project undertaken with the CPRE to develop GIS resources in the Lower Severn Vale using open data and open source GIS software. Understanding and capturing variability in the landscape context of historic linear features is the focus of this project. The Lower Severn Vale LCA, sited within the Severn and Avon Vales NCA, offers a range of settings to explore the variability of historic linear features and the factors that influence both provision and value of ecosystem services arising from such features.

The overall aims of the project are to demonstrate how the monetary and non-monetary values of historic linear features can be incorporated into the concept of Natural Capital and the four categories of ecosystem services.

The case study will focus on the analysis of the heritage associated with boundaries and linear landscape features within the broader landscape and environmental context of Lower Severn Vale landscape character area (LCA). 

The specific objectives of the case study include the following:

  • Explore the heritage in terms of its value as natural capital in relation to the natural environment of the area. Analyse the nature of the relationship between heritage and environmental values within the Lower Severn Vale LCA.
  • Identify the ecosystem services provided by the heritage assets within the LCA (including ‘provisioning’, ‘supporting’, ‘regulatory’ and ‘cultural services’), and identify other values that fall outside the ecosystem services framework that can also be ascribed to the heritage assets.
  • Develop a methodology that can be used to ensure that heritage can be reflected in a way that is compatible with natural capital and ecosystem services approaches, across a particular area and environmental context.
  • Provide the heritage and natural environment sectors with examples of how this might operate within different environmental contexts.

The pilot study will build on recent and current activity carried out by CCRI in the Lower Severn Vale, and on valuing drystone walls in the Peak District.  Members of the project team are currently engaged in the utilisation of the Lower Severn Vale as a case study area for teaching environmental assessment methods to MSc Applied Ecology and MSc Landscape Architecture students (John Powell and Rob Berry).  Rob Berry is also leading a project in conjunction with the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) to develop GIS resources in the Lower Severn Vale. 

The work underpins development of a digital map database of the Lower Severn Vale, using undergraduate student interns working with open data and open source GIS software.  The use of open source software means it can be installed on any computer, without financial cost or licensing restrictions, allowing for on-going resource sharing and active collaboration.  

The aim is to develop a GIS resource which will provide a spatial database of information for other research projects, a scenario planning tool, and a community engagement tool.  The project provides interesting insights into one approach to assessing the significance of ecosystem service arising from specific historic features within a broader landscape area.

As illustrated below, the project is divided into five broad stages, each consisting of a number of tasks. [Illustration removed due to accessibility issues]