SEFARI delivers the Scottish Government funded Strategic Research Programme 2016-2021 (SRP) on agriculture, environment, food and land, providing direct and tangible benefits across diverse issues. The latest highlights report covering the the period September 2019 to February 2020 is now available to view online here. This report is presented to the Operational Group of the Strategic Advisory Board for RESAS Science.
The highlights within this report emphasize the breadth and depth of this interdisciplinary programme’s contribution to Scotland’s environment, land, agriculture, food, rural communities and economy. Key highlights include wader bird conservation; new findings on tackling soil erosion; enhancing climate change risk assessments for Scottish crop pests and pathogens; the development of a suite of tests capable of detecting the most common infections carried by ticks; new evidence on the health and economic benefits from soft fruits; and new findings for the development and adoption of healthy and environmentally sustainable diets.
For knowledge exchange and impact: 2020 is a big year for nature, the environment and agriculture, especially as we build towards the UK hosting the 26th session of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow. Understandably, the priorities for government, industry, and society have had to rapidly and intensively focus on the unprecedented and critical global public health crisis posed by COVID-19, and its individual, societal and economic challenges in the months and years ahead. With us all working from home for the near future, the Gateway has moved to online working and is actively continuing to progress all current and new knowledge exchange partnerships. The Gateway will shortly launch a series of calls across the the Portfolio to SEFARI expertise to work with our stakeholders in online formats, including on urgent COVID-19-related assessments or needs.
While the national and international response to COVID intensifies, both the climate and biodiversity emergencies are and will remain at the top of the long-term political and societal agenda. The Scottish Government recently passed new legislation aiming to make Scotland Net-Zero by 2045. SEFARI Fellowship projects are continuing to provide key capacity for climate action in Scotland; e.g. through working with the National Farmers Union Scotland addressing key climate impact questions for the sector; assisting Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park Authority to support effective woodland creation; and supporting the work of The Just Transition Commission exploring how to achieve a net-zero carbon economy that is fair for all.
The biodiversity crisis is innately intertwined with climate emergency and our earlier funded Think Tank to address Aichi Target 13 on the conservation of genetic diversity, a multi academic and agency collaboration co-led and onward funded with Scottish Natural Heritage, has been instrumental in delivering a world-first method to help understand and conserve genetic diversity in some of Scotland’s most iconic wild species. This practical tool will enable other countries to assess genetic diversity and compare what has been measured in Scotland. Impacts and initiatives such as these are being assessed as a potential Gateway focus to COP26 and its aligned events.
2020 has been designated by the United Nations as the Year of Plant Health and within Scotland as the Year of Coasts and Waters, with the latter aiming to inspire people to explore and experience Scotland’s shores. Both of these initiatives mark excellent opportunities for online collaboration. One of Gateway’s funded responsive projects called “Waterwalls” will soon be launching a web portal for the public to submit photos and stories about their experiences of Scotland’s coasts and water.
For Gateway’s KE partnerships and projects in 2020, while shifting to the new realities imposed by COVID-19, we are set to deliver a range of novel knowledge partnerships, including Fellowships on innovation for environmental monitoring; better linking of agriculture by-products into the circular economy; and examining the social and economic capital delivered through farm cooperatives. Gateway has also funded a virtual Think Tank looking at the sustainable farming practices currently being used by farmers and land managers.
The road back from COVID-19 will be long and difficult. Nevertheless, despite the absolute need for social distancing to dictate where and how we work, SEFARI and SEFARI Gateway remain fully committed to ensuring that stakeholder access to Portfolio expertise and partnership working continues unabated in delivering to Scotland’s National Outcomes. We are also making resources available to assist stakeholders with COVID-19 response and impacts within these unprecedented and challenging times.
Charles Bestwick, Director, SEFARI Gateway