Agricultural Management

Valuing the impacts of ecosystem service interactions for policy effectiveness

Loweswater farm

This project explored how ecosystem processes and services interact to produce benefits for people in an agricultural system. Environmental policy is often concerned with the delivery and management of a single ecosystem service, e.g. food or water quality or carbon management, but it often does not fully account for the underlying ecosystem processes necessary for their delivery. 

This can mean crucial processes are unvalued and inadequately managed. Improved understanding is needed regarding (1) how ecosystem services arise from multiple and interacting underlying ecosystem properties and processes, and (2) how processes and services are linked within and across ecosystems.

This project brought together soil ecologists, ecologists, modellers and economists to understand the intricate underlying ecosystem processes that are often key to the delivery of ecosystem services, e.g. food or water quality or carbon management. 

The project team studied this at two scales: 

  1. at a catchment scale using data from Loweswater in the Lake District, and
  2. at a landscape scale.

End of project summary poster


Aims and objectives

Cows by riverAims

  • Develop a framework for an environmental ‘input-output model’ that quantifies the links between process-function-service, allowing values for final ecosystem service to be ‘cascaded’ back down the production chain of ecosystem processes.
  • Retrospectively map out the ‘value chain’ from the final ecosystem services that impact on human welfare through intermediate services and functions to supporting ecosystem processes. At each level the contribution or ‘value added’ to the final ecosystem services will be assessed. We will also assess whether existing values and valuation methodologies are adequate or appropriate to capture these contributions to final values (i.e. whether the methods actually capture these elements of value).
  • Identify the points at which policy and management effort should be concentrated to effectively deliver multiple ecosystem services.


  • Describe how ecosystem processes produce ecosystem services both within and across two ecosystems.
  • Examine how existing valuation of ecosystem services can be ascribed to the underlying processes that are involved in socio-ecological systems.
  • Identify and characterise issues of scale (spatial and temporal) that arise within and across the studied ecosystem processes, services, management and policy.
  • Jointly assess the input processes in two ecosystems, identifying trade-offs and possibilities for joint management and policy interventions.
  • Identify significant knowledge or data gaps and develop future research.



Read the final report here

Published paper

Operationalizing an ecosystem services-based approach using Bayesian Belief Networks: An application to riparian buffer strips

Conference presentations

Exploring the interaction of ecosystem processes and ecosystem services for effective decision-making - submitted paper

Exploring the interaction of ecosystem processes and ecosystem services for effective decision-making - PowerPoint presentation


The team

Principal Investigator

Mr Alistair McVittie - Scotland Rural College


Dr Klaus Glenk - Scotland Rural College
Dr Helaina IJ Black - The James Hutton Institute
Dr Julia Martin-Ortega - The James Hutton Institute
Dr Wendy Kenyon - The James Hutton Institute
Dr Matt Aitkenhead - The James Hutton Institute
Dr Lisa Norton - Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Mr Michael Dunbar - Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Dr Simon Smart - Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.


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