BESS (NERC) initiative

BESS (featuring the DURESS project)

Ecosystem services and sustainable ecosystem functioning

The natural systems that underpin the delivery of those services and benefits that society enjoys, such as clean water, food production, protection from flooding and recreation, are being increasingly challenged by an increasing population, demand for housing and infrastructure, the need to feed a rapidly growing planet and climate change.

Our landscapes need to be managed appropriately to ensure the sustainable delivery of these servcies into the future. But we do not truly understand the linkages between the stocks of biodiversity within those landscape and the flows of services from those stocks. Until we have a better grasp of those linkages, those responsible for managing our landscapes will be doing so under great uncertainty.

Biodiversity & Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS) is a six-year (2011-2017) NERC research programme, designed to reduce that uncertainty. It will answer fundamental questions about the functional role of biodiversity in key ecosystem processes and the delivery of ecosystem processes at the landscape scale and how these are likely to change in an uncertain future.

By providing a much improved evidence base, those responsible for how landscapes are used and developed should be in much better position to make decisions about the inevitable trade-offs that are required to ensure sustainable futures.

The BESS DURESS project

Britain's river ecosystems provide many important ecosystem services. As well as providing water supplies, they regulate flooding and water quality, support adjacent ecosystems by supplying energy and nutrients and provide cultural value by supporting charismatic organisms, recreation and education. However, the ways in which organisms and ecosystem functions maintain these services in rivers are poorly understood, in addition, many of these services are also at risk from climate and land-use changes.

This project will focus on four examples of river ecosystem services: The regulation of water quality, the regulation of decomposition, fisheries and recreational fishing and rive birds as culturally valued biodiversity.

Using a range of spatial and temporal scales, the project will test the overarching hypothesis that 'biodiversity is central the sustainable delivery of upland river ecosystem services under changing land-use and climate'. It will aim to address many of questions needed to tackle this hypothesis including:

What are the links between biodiversity and service delivery?

How does river biodiversity affect ecosystem service delivery through time?

How should river biodiversity be managed to sustain ecosystem services?