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Professor Michael Winter

New tool to support improvements to environment and rural employment

A new web-based tool will support policymakers and farmers to improve the environment and increase rural employment.

People working with land in England and Wales can now use different types of data to work out how to better take account of local priorities and needs when making farming decisions. The Landscape Typology Tool, launched this week (2nd November 2017), contains information about science, people and economics, bringing together more than 100 different national datasets in an innovative web platform. It also classifies landscapes based on physical and environmental and social-economic characteristics such as soil type, water quality and crop yield.

This information will help users identify opportunities and risks for food production and the environment. People can use the data to plan how to increase crop yields, biodiversity or rural employment through sustainable intensification, an approach that aims to increase farm production while simultaneously protecting the countryside and enhancing environmental and social benefits. It involves the adoption of new practices, including technical innovations, as well as measures to protect land of high nature value.

The tool allows the data to be blended in different combinations and adapted as priorities change, for example, post-Brexit. Users can select their preferred economic, environmental and social priorities and the tool will give guidance tailored to their geographical location.

The tool was developed by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and ADAS as part of the Sustainable Intensification Research Platform (SIP), a multi-partner research programme funded by Defra and Welsh Government and comprising farmers, industry, academia, environmental organisations and policymakers.

At a webinar marking its official launch, Professor Jack Cosby of CEH provided an introduction to the tool and its varied capabilities and applications. Also attending was Prof Michael Winter of the University of Exeter, who led the SIP project “Opportunities and risks for farming and the environment at landscape scales” from which the tool was created. CEH project lead Prof Bridget Emmett highlighted future uses of the tool under a major new programme on ‘Environmental and Rural Affairs Monitoring and Modelling’ in Wales. The event was chaired by Siobhan Sherry of Defra and hosted by the Ecosystems Knowledge Network and Defra.

Prof Jack Cosby, Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said, “The Landscape Typology Tool will help users understand the opportunities and risks for food production and the environment. We can show how beneficial outcomes such as increased crop yields, biodiversity and rural employment might be achieved. The tool allows users to select and weight data layers according to perceived importance and in relation to local or national priorities.  

“As food, farming and environmental policy are so interconnected, it is vital to have tools that represent knowledge from a collaborative base.”

University of Exeter project lead Prof Michael Winter said, “Decision support tools produced by the SIP programme are designed to integrate knowledge at landscape scales and produce useful and targeted advice. Our approach, bringing agricultural, environmental and social scientists together with farmers, has ensured this type of understanding.”

CEH has been one of the principal partners in the £4million Sustainable Intensification Research Platform. Find out more details about the programme and its transdisciplinary projects by visiting the SIP website.

The Landscape Typology Tool can be accessed via CEH’s Environmental Information Platform. The webinar presentation will be available to view later.

Date: 6 November 2017

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