Ecosystem Resilience Guide

Recently, Environment Systems, working with LDA Design, were tasked with producing an Ecosystem Resilience Field Guide by Natural Resources Wales on behalf of the Nature Recovery Action Plan Ecosystem Resilience and Restoration Group. The need to build ecosystem resilience is driven by the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act and the Environment (Wales) Act.

Ecosystem resilience is the capacity of an ecosystem to deal with pressures and demands; resisting, recovering from or adapting to these whilst retaining their ability to deliver ecosystem services. A resilient ecosystem will demonstrate:
Diversity – including genetic diversity, species diversity, diversity within and between ecosystems, and structural diversity.

Extent – where its area is sufficiently large to sustain populations, support ecological processes and cope with negative edge effects like predation.
Condition – where the physical environment can support a comprehensive range of organisms and healthy populations.
Connectivity – where organisms can move within and between different ecosystems, from foraging or migration of individuals, through dispersal of seeds and genes, to the major shifts of species’ populations to adjust to a changing climate.

The guide sets out to inspire people to take action for sustainable land management, demystifying the concept and assisting stakeholders to understand and help build ecosystem resilience on the ground. In many ways it is a practical guide with specific actions highlighted for townscapes, lowland, upland and coastal areas. It is illustrated with annotated photographs that help in the understanding of the practical measures such as tree planting, hedgerow restoration and specific crop and livestock management that can be taken.

The guide also looks forwards to 2050 to show what a resilient future might look like. As we move towards 2050, the way in which we choose to manage our land will increasingly be based on its ability to provide multiple ecosystem services, not just one or two; crops or timber for example. Not all land will be suited to providing all ecosystem services, but all land will have the potential to provide a variety of services, and its ability to do this will greatly depend upon the diversity extent, condition and connectivity of the ecosystems found there.

Natural Resources Wales Ecosystem Resilience Guide
Lowland Journey towards 2050 – Annotated photographs help indicate where and what types of measures can be taken – photo ©John Briggs
  1. Trees planted to diversify farm income, provide shelter for grazing animals (improving animal welfare), storing carbon and increasing habitat extent and diversity.
  2. Woodlands managed to create a diverse range of tree ages, species and structural types, improving habitat condition and diversity.
  3. Lowland habitats, like semi- natural grasslands and wetlands, restored and created to increase diversity, condition, extent and connectivity.
  4. Continuous hedgerows and field margins provide corridors for wildlife movement, and carbon storage when managed sympathetically; increases habitat connectivity.
  5. A mixed farming model with diverse crop rotations together with livestock, agroforestry and orchards support wildlife as well as maintaining soil fertility and controlling pests and diseases; increases diversity and condition.
  6. Riparian planting reduces soil erosion and sediment inputs into watercourses, provides beneficial shading and nutrients to watercourses, and improves condition.
  7. Fencing watercourses creates a buffer strip to prevent livestock access, reducing soil erosion and sediment inputs into watercourses, improving diversity and condition.

You can access the guide here.