Soil and its ecosystem function

To combine physical, chemical and biological approaches to characterise soil functions delivering essential ecosystem services. This will be done in the context of identifying the potential to promote beneficial functions of soils (e.g. water-holding capacity, resistance to erosion, storage of carbon, nutrient cycling) and to mitigate impacts on the environment (e.g.

Soil resilience

To understand resilience of soils in Scottish semi-natural ecosystems.  This research aims to understand the relationships among disturbance factors, soil properties, processes and soil functions for a range of important Scottish semi-natural ecosystems (peatland, moorland, woodland, grassland, alpine systems).

Soil and GHG emissions

To improve understanding of the impacts of extensive land use and management on greenhouse gas dynamics  The work will focus on the impacts of land use, including the agricultural intensification of extensive/upland soils and the management of semi-natural ecosystems such as peatlands and moorlands (wet and dry heathlands excluding areas of deep peat) on soil carbon stocks and

Soil management

To support the sustainable use and management of Scotland’s soil resource. We will provide new and improved tools to predict how soil functions respond to land use, management and environmental pressures.

Water and its ecosystem functions

To understand how  pressures such as problems arising from agricultural and urban land use and, increasingly, climate change affect the biophysical and ecological processes within our catchments.  The focus of the research is on understanding how the biophysical and ecological processes within water bodies operate and contribute to the delivery of ecosystem function and health.

Impacts of change on water

To support a range of Scottish policy priorities These include:

1) Flooding e.g. helping local authorities incorporate uncertainty into Flood Risk Management (FRM) plans; meeting the requirements of the Floods Directive (FD); 2) Water quality e.g. providing evidence for the Nitrates Directive (ND) review;  informing regulation of shellfish and bathing water protected areas; reducing water treatment costs through improved catchment management; and meeting the requirements of the Drinking Water Directive (DWD) and WFD.

The project will address questions such as: What changes may take place in the future, where and why? What determines sensitivity, resilience and response to change? Can we detect change? What statistical methods are appropriate? Can we separate the effects of policy interventions from other factors? What management approaches are effective in controlling water quantity and quality at catchment scale? How might this change in the future? What are the key uncertainties and how do they affect decision making?

A range of models and data analysis tools are being developed to characterise Scotland’s present-day water resources (quantity and quality), including any existing trends, and improve our understanding of how these may change in the future. Possible effects of land use and climate change on Scotland’s water resources will be considered to help to define limits for the fair and sustainable use of natural assets such as water, land, energy and nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus).

Water environment, resilience and adaptation to change

To evaluate the capacity of water resources to adapt to changing environmental and socio-economic conditions, in order to maintain key functions, goods and services (resilience) 

Effectiveness of water management

To enable the uptake of measures that will improve water management, both to improve water quality and to contribute to flood risk management.  This RD examines the options to improve water management in the complex socio-economic and policy settings of 'real world' catchment management.

Biodiversity and ecosystem functions

There remain large gaps in understanding how changes in management and the environment alter community composition and, hence, ecosystem functions. This Research Deliverable (RD) addresses how ecosystem functions are regulated by the traits of species present, and how potential limits for the maintenance of ecosystem function can be captured in ecosystem health metrics.

Ecosystem services provision

Ecosystem services provision:  To develop an in-depth understanding by 2021 of the impacts of selected management interventions (including restoration) on Ecosystem Service (ES) flows and of the associated trajectories of change.

Resilience of ecosystems and biodiversity

Resilience of ecosystems and biodiversity. This work aims to study the different  aspects of resilience of widlife species and natural ecosystems to improve our understanding of how biodiversity and ecosystems are likely to change in response to environmental and climate change, and how to manage them to increase their resilience to change.

Biodiversity management

Biodiversity management To deliver research that helps Scotland meet biodiversity goals as set by the Aichi Targets, the EU Biodiversity Strategy and, specifically, the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. It will do this by considering the effectiveness of alternative biodiversity/land management measures and potential options for safeguarding against biodiversity loss.

Natural Asset Inventory and Natural Capital Accounts

Natural Asset Inventory and Natural Capital Accounts: the aim is to develop a spatially-referenced register of Scotland’s natural assets and contribute to a set of natural capital accounts for Scotland that can over time track the progress of Scotland's green growth aspirations.

Identifying and understanding multiple benefits and trade-offs

Identifying and understanding multiple benefits and trade-offs – this work aims to have developed approaches that will support integrated decision-making to protect multiple natural assets and maximise benefits in socially acceptable ways.

Practical interventions to realise multiple benefits and manage trade-offs

The aim of this research is to evaluate the potential to manage trade-offs and deliver multiple benefits from natural assets at the landscape scale.

Novel Crops

Novel Crops: To address opportunities for producing alternative protein and carbohydrate crops in Scottish agriculture for fish and crustacean feed, bioenergy, bio-refining, animal feed and human consumption, and to develop design criteria for integrating suitable alternative legume and non-legume crops as sole and intercrops within rotations whilst also accounting for agronomi

Plant-soil-water interactions

Plant, Soil, Water Interactions: To identify the interactions between plants and soils that can be exploited to achieve food security and sustainable production of sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Crop yield and quality, biodiversity, and soil health are largely determined by the interactions between plant roots and the soil.

Integrated pest management

The aim of this research is to understand the importance of factors that modify reliance on pesticides and integrate these into Integrated Pest Management (IPM) toolboxes tailored to key Scottish horticultural and arable crops. Novel control options, which reduce reliance on pesticides, are required because of reduced availability of plant protection products.

In-field detection

The overall aim is to improve detection of economically important pests/pathogens/diseases affecting key Scottish crops. This will improve decision making for growers and control recommendations and inform policy and statutory recommendations, leading to improved disease control. Much of the research capitalises on outputs from the previous RESAS programme and externally funded research.

Plant-Pest Epidemiology

Improved risk management and control of plant diseases: to be achieved through an understanding of key epidemiological parameters and optimal ways of manipulating them. These parameters underpin the development of epidemiological models that can be used to predict the effect of management strategies, including crop protection and host resistance.