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Ecosystem Services Assessment in Sherwood Forest

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In 2014, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) approved a bid from Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) to develop a Landscape Partnership Scheme (LPS) in Sherwood Forest, known as ‘From miner to Major: the real Sherwood Forest’ (Miner2Major). The LPS aims to conserve and restore the distinctive landscape character of Sherwood and engage with communities to re-establish the link between locals and their surroundings. A support project was recently delivered by ADAS for NCC, the aim of which was to provide an Ecosystem Services (ES) assessment, including a spatial representation, and valuation. The assessment will form a baseline against which to measure the impacts of the LPS and the valuations will also be used to develop Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes.

Ecosystem Services Assessment in Sherwood Forest

What are Ecosystem Services and why are they important to the LPS?

Ecosystem Services (ES) are the processes by which the environment produces resources that are utilised by humans. There are a number of ways of classifying different ES into types. This project made use of the CICES[1] classification, which is a standard approach developed by the European Environment Agency. Services are classified according to three main types;

  • Provisioning Services – the products obtained from ecosystems (e.g. food, water, fuel)
  • Regulating and Maintenance Services – the benefits obtained from regulation of natural processes (e.g. air quality regulation, water purification)
  • Cultural Services – the benefits that people gain through interaction with ecosystems (e.g. recreation, health & wellbeing)

Taking an ‘ecosystem approach’ when developing the Miner2Major LPS will help to achieve a sustainable use of the ecosystems and landscapes within the Sherwood area for long-term benefits, help target efforts at various spatial scales, estimate the value of as many ES as possible, identify trade-offs and involve stakeholders in decisions.

A baseline assessment of Ecosystem Services in Sherwood

A baseline assessment was carried out to identify and assess the range of ES provided by the Sherwood area. The results were used to focus discussion at a stakeholder workshop and to help identify those ES that should be prioritised for economic valuation. Each ES considered was assessed against four criteria (baseline assessment, stakeholder priorities, project focus, and saleability) using a simple linear non-weighted multi-criteria analysis.  This resulted in a ranked list of services to take forward for valuation.

Economic valuation of Ecosystem Services

Monetary valuation of ES is a useful process as it facilitates comparison of the benefits realised from the natural environment with the costs incurred to maintain or enhance those benefits. Economic valuation was carried out for the services wildlife/biodiversity; heritage/sense of history; sense of place/inspiration; health and wellbeing; timber; and crops using a value transfer approach. A central estimate, upper and lower bounds and a qualitative estimate of the confidence in the valuation was provided for each. This gives a baseline against which impacts of the LPS can be compared.

Spatial mapping of Ecosystem Services

A spatial representation of some ES within the Miner2Major study area was achieved using EcoServ-GIS. This is a toolkit of GIS-based models for mapping ES developed by the Wildlife Trusts[2].  The primary objective of the mapping exercise was to provide visual outputs that will help identify where and how land or resources could be managed to improve the service provision. The services that were mapped in terms of capacity, demand and management zones were carbon storage; noise regulation; pollination; water purification; accessible nature; education and green travel.

Capacity is the performance and capability of an ecosystem or landscape to deliver services. In Eco-Serv-GIS, capacity is graded according to the predicted level or quality of service provided using geospatial indicators. Demand areas are where there is a societal demand for a service or a need for regulation. Societal demand is mapped and graded using socio-economic indicators. Management zones are defined by overlaying demand and capacity maps and classifying discrete areas by the most appropriate management option and priority based on the coincidence of levels for capacity and demand.

Payment for Ecosystem Services Schemes

In PES schemes, those who benefit from the provision of ecosystem services not currently in the market compensate those who have worked to supply them. For a PES project to be successful there need to be (1) specific land or resource management actions that can increase the supply of a service; (2) a clear demand for the service that is financially valuable; and (3) clarity on whose actions have the capacity to increase the supply of the service.

The currently proposed set of projects for Miner2Major were evaluated in terms of their readiness for market (with reference to Defra’s PES guidance). Modifications, enhancements or alternative approaches to projects were also suggested that could make them more viable for PES.

PES is a relatively new concept that can be difficult to comprehend, therefore successful promotion of simple and viable PES schemes will help raise awareness of the benefits of ecosystems, increase the likelihood of scheme uptake and ultimately lead to a successful scheme outcome that can be used to demonstrate success for future projects.

Measuring success

Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) are critical elements of any project, programme, or strategy. Evaluation is the analysis of information in order to inform decision making; monitoring provides the information necessary to complete the analysis.  Together they help decision-makers understand how the scheme is performing and enable comparison against the initial state at various points in the future.  As delivering enhanced ecosystem services will be an important objective of the Miner2Major LPS, it is essential that the M&E protocol is amenable to capturing and evaluating relevant information about ecosystem services.

For more information about Ecosystem Service assessment and PES, please contact Mike Image

For more information about mapping Ecosystem Services, please contact Lucy Wilson

The mapping component of this project is part of a wider development of digital technologies across ADAS termed ‘ADAS Digital’.

You can read more about the ADAS Digital initiative here, and full details of our digital services can be found on our new ADAS Digital webpage.



[1] Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services. Developed from the work on environmental account undertaken by the European Environment Agency (

[2] Winn, J.P., Bellamy, C. C., and Fisher, T. (2015), EcoServ-GIS Version 3.3 (Great Britain): A toolkit for mapping ecosystem services. User Guide. The Wildlife Trusts.

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