JNCC is the public body that advises the UK Government and devolved administrations on UK-wide and international nature conservation. Our role is to provide evidence, information and advice so that decisions are made that protect natural resources and systems. We play a key role in the UK’s offshore marine nature conservation. That includes identifying, monitoring and advising on how protected areas are run and providing advice on the impacts of offshore industries (http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/default.aspx?page=1729). A theme running throughout the new JNCC strategy (http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-3033) is that a healthy natural environment provides the foundation for sustainable economic growth, prospering communities and personal wellbeing. In line with the new strategy, the strategic, long-term vision for our MPA work is to use our evidence-base to provide scientifically robust advice and raise awareness of the benefits of offshore MPAs to society. There are currently 54 MPAs that either wholly or partly lie within UK offshore waters and for which JNCC is the responsible Statutory Nature Conservation Body. Although these MPAs are primarily designated under nature conservation legislation for the protection of habitats and species, we want to understand more about the services and benefits that these can deliver. JNCC also has an obligation and indeed a desire to effectively communicate the benefits of these sites to our external customers.
This placement will support work on a project developing a Marine Natural Capital Asset Register for UK offshore waters as a follow on to the JNCC’s Natural Capital Project on ‘Exploring the components and processes of marine ecosystems critical to ecosystem service generation’ (http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-7290).
Assets are natural capital stocks and in a marine context, these can include habitats and species. A Natural Capital Asset Register attempts to answer the question: ‘What do we have?’ In the marine environment (as on land) it can therefore be considered an inventory of the natural capital stocks from which the flow of ecosystem services can be identified. An asset register allows for natural capital to be more explicitly considered in decisions concerning usage of and access to natural resources. A marine asset register can also provide the foundation for estimating the magnitude of the flows of different services from the marine environment to society and could underpin future Natural Capital Accounting for the marine environment.
Work is already underway to develop the initial structure for the asset register and the list of high level marine assets (habitat and species) relevant to offshore MPAs. The placement will pick up the work at this point and will be required to populate the register with information on the ecosystem services and benefits provided by these assets. This will be done through a thorough literature review of existing academic research and grey literature, before the services and benefits identified are entered into the asset register. Further modifications to the structure of the asset register by the placement holder may be required as the project progresses to ensure it is fit for purpose and can adequately hold all relevant information. If time allows a secondary piece of work could be for a more detailed series of reviews of existing literature to provide direct evidence on the ecosystem services and wider benefits being delivered at the offshore MPA site level.
Key expected outputs will be:
• A clear structure to house the Marine Natural Capital Asset Register;
• A list of offshore marine assets relevant to offshore MPAs;
• A detailed literature review for each of the marine assets identified above establishing linkages between natural assets and ecosystem services flow;
• Offshore MPA feature asset information to be populated within the Marine Natural Capital Asset Register providing lists of asset specific ecosystem services and the associated benefits to society;
• A series of MPA specific literature reviews (time dependent).
These outputs will help support communication work as well as improve offshore MPA conservation advice that is in development. It is hoped that the successful applicant will also gain broader experience of working within JNCC. This placement is an excellent opportunity to gain understanding of working in an organisation which services the needs of the UK Government and Devolved Administrations and operates on the science-policy interface.