Tim Sunderland

Natural England
Anywhere - but ability to travel to N. Devon or Exeter useful

Natural England – North Devon Pioneer – Systems Modelling & Natural Capital

At the request of the Natural Capital Committee, the Pioneer projects are seeking to understand the value of services offered by the natural environment, how these change over time, the systems that produce them and the causes of changes in value. In North Devon, we are addressing this through a pragmatic approach to Natural Capital Accounting. Natural Capital Accounting seeks to answer:

• what natural capital assets we’ve got?
• how much of them we have?
• where they are?
• what quality they are?
• what ecosystem services they provide?
• what the value of these ecosystem services is?
• to whom? and
• what is cost to maintain them?

We’ve built spreadsheets which collate answers to these questions- one for each National Ecosystem Assessment broad habitat type. We’re collating answers from academic evidence, grey literature and local experts and will have the spreadsheets completed with the best possible answers by the end of September.
Our completed spreadsheets will give an evidence-based view on the anticipated trajectory of ecosystem service provision for the next twenty years. For example will flood risk increase, or remain relatively stable? Will water-quality improve or deteriorate? We’re holding a participatory decision-making workshop on October 16th where we will compare these anticipated trajectories with the North Devon Biosphere’s vision for the area. Workshop participants will chose a short list of priority ecosystem service issues generated by this comparison. This is where you come in.

Once we’ve identified that the likely trend is not consistent with the vision, we need to decide what action to take. But acting effectively requires deeper, more three-dimensional understanding of causation than is available through Natural Capital Accounting. We need to understand:

• What changes to habitats are causing the change in service delivery?
• What changes in business, household or government behaviour is causing the change in habitats?
• How are structures, incentives and regulations driving this?

In summary, we need to understand how the North Devon socio-ecological system causes change to the ecosystem services at issue and therefore the best places to intervene in the system to generate desired change. The successful applicant will work with us to build systems maps to inform decision-making. These maps will be formal causation statements, driven by evidence and expressed in terms of confidence and/or probability as used in system engineering (using Bayesian Belief Networks or similar). They will support our decision-making through setting out an evidence-based and shared understanding of the relevant socio-ecological system. This work will be fully integrated into the Pioneer decision-making process. This opportunity would suit someone with a background in system mapping and/or natural capital and ecosystem services who wanted to apply their skills to public decision-making.

To discuss taking this opportunity forward please contact Thomas Harle (07787 006039 or Thomas.Harle@naturalengland.org.uk) until the 30th August and Tim Sunderland - 07833058823 or tim.sunderland@naturalengland.org.uk) after the 30th August.

Research user (policy)
Research user (practitioner)
Economic Research
Natural Sciences
Social Sciences
Research Area: 
Natural hazards & extreme weather events
Pathogens & natural aquatic toxins
Urban ecosystems
Health and wellbeing
Tipping points