The economic value of ecosystem services from the Welsh uplands: KESS 2 participant Ashley Hardaker publishes paper in international ‘Ecosystem Services’ journal

Ashley Hardaker

© Hardaker et al. (2020)

Bangor University KESS 2 PhD student Ashley Hardaker has recently published his first paper from his PhD in the journal Ecosystem Services (Impact Factor 5.572). Ashley is currently in the third year of his KESS 2 funded scholarship working in collaboration with Coed Cymru CYF and his paper estimates the economic value of ecosystem services provided by land use in the Welsh uplands.

Land use in the Welsh uplands is dominated by low-intensity sheep and cattle grazing (covering approximately 80% of the area), with smaller amounts of high-volume low quality softwood timber production interspersed with areas of unproductive amenity woodland (covering the remaining 20%).  Land use in the Welsh uplands has high potential value in relation to the delivery of ecosystem services—which are benefits to society—that is currently uncaptured.

Agriculture and forestry in the uplands provides many additional ‘non market’ benefits (including water supply, carbon sequestration, flood mitigation and employment) in addition to ‘market’ benefits such as livestock, arable crop and timber production and this paper estimates the economic value of these ecosystem services benefits to be £1.47 billion per year. These land uses are also the source of dis-benefits to society (including reduced water quality and greenhouse gas emissions) which are estimated to have economic costs of £101.5 million per year.

The key finding of this paper is the imbalance of ecosystem services provision between private benefits (that accrue to farmers, landowners and private companies) and public benefits (that accrue to society). Under the current combination of agriculture and forestry in the Welsh uplands, £1.3 billion per year (88%) of ecosystem service benefits accrue privately whereas only £170 million per year (12%) are public benefits. This may be in part due to knowledge gaps and limited evidence surrounding additional public ecosystem services including cultural benefits such as recreation and landscape amenity as well other regulating benefits such as water quality maintenance from riverside woodland. That being said the paper argues that there is scope to increase the provision of public ecosystem service benefits from the Welsh uplands.

Ashley’s PhD research project is supported by KESS 2 European Social Funds (ESF) through the Welsh Government and by company sponsors Coed Cymru CYF. The project is an industry based collaboration with a supervisory team based at Bangor University (Dr Tim Pagella and Dr Mark Rayment) and Gareth Davies (Coed Cymru CYF).

The full published paper entitled “Integrated assessment, valuation and mapping of ecosystem services and dis-services from upland land use in Wales” can be viewed here: