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Practical interventions to realise multiple benefits and manage trade-offs

Work Package 1.4 - Integrated and Sustainable management of natural assets

Research Deliverable 
1.4.3 Realising multiple benefits and managing trade-offs
Leading Ideas 
Climate and the Environment


Land management and land-use change has consequences for natural assets as well as the viability of land-based businesses and managing them requires cooperation and collaboration across a landscape. Adaptive Management, which iteratively uses evidence from monitoring interventions to evaluate the effectiveness of management interventions and inform the design of more effective alternatives, can support integrated land and water decision making to protect the multiple benefits derived from natural assets. This research is focused on a range of practical case studies that are representative of the major land uses in Scotland and seeks to identify and promote best practice in collective, landscape-scale Adaptive Management to help land managers deliver these benefits whilst maintaining viable land-based businesses.

The work involves researchers from the James Hutton Institute, Moredun Research Institute and Centre for Hydrology and Ecology (Edinburgh) working closely with local communities, land managers, Scottish Government agencies and environmental NGOs.

Aim of Research

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. Focussing on agri-environment and woodland expansion schemes, together with integrated catchment management, the research uses practical examples to explore trade-offs and impacts taking into account social and cultural values as well environmental considerations in relation to land use and land use change. We provide practical guidance to land managers and other stakeholders and illustrate how existing and novel policy measures can improve the management of our natural assets to support sustainable land-based industries and vibrant communities.

Our work is organised as follows:

  • Applying an adaptive management framework to facilitate the evaluation and coordination of measures to deliver multiple benefits – contact Kit MacLeod
  • Assessing the potential for agri-environmental measures to deliver multiple benefits at a landscape scale – contact Laure Kuhfuss
  • Developing approaches that reconcile woodland expansion with other land use priorities – contact Katrina Brown.
  • To use adaptive management to integrate water management options for the delivery of multiple benefits – contact Kit Macleod.


2018 / 2019
2018 / 2019

The land use case-studies continue to collect information on the place and system-specific aspects of collective approaches to adaptive management. In addition, the synthesis of this information is beginning to yield insights with provisional findings indicating the presence of certain generically important determinants for successful management such as the alignment of goals among stakeholders.


  • How can we enhance the role of local land and water users in delivering catchment scale water ecosystem services? This was the question addressed for the Lunan Water in a presentation at Scotland’s Biennial Land Use and Environment Conference, Edinburgh, 28-29 November 2018. The presentation identified barriers to implementation of innovative water management, including demonstrating technical feasibility, the thin spread of benefits across users, long term management/legal issues, lack of clear champions and lack of precedence for Payments for Ecosystem Services
  • Maps of land use data and ecosystem services: A report has been produced summarising collation of maps/spatial datasets on land use and ecosystem services for case study locations of Scotland’s two National Parks and Aberdeenshire River Dee. These maps have been produced through work on agricultural land use and its impacts and on mapping ecosystem service indicators and are intended for analysis at the whole river catchment scale or smaller.
2017 / 2018
2017 / 2018

Building on the Adaptive Management framework developed in Year 1, Years 2 to 5 research aims at applying this analytical framework to varied land-use examples and revising it when necessary. Year 2 was therefore dedicated at increasing our knowledge of physical and social characteristics of the case-studies (woodland management in the Cairnghorm National Park, Cumbernauld Linving Landscape, Balruddery Sustainable Catchment programme and the Lunan Water for all project) and at modelling and mapping the distribution of multiple ecosystem services across these case-studies. Assessments have been made of the impact of land use management, including agri-environmental measures, woodland expansion, and active water levels management on the provision of ecosystem services. In the Cairngorms, the research team has been investigating the use of digital storytelling methods for adaptive management.


  • Strengthening interactions between SEFARI researchers and farmers: The James Hutton Institute’s Glensaugh research farm hosted an event for farmers on “The Challenge of Marginal Land” on September 13 2017 and included aspects of grazing management, diversification into deer farming, and woodland expansion, drawing on research across Theme 1. A review developed in WP1.3 of agri-environmental measures and how these might be targeted in future was presented, which led to discussions on which environmental benefits farmers would seek and where these required cooperation to deliver.
  • Coordinating Landscape Scale agri-environmental management: A paper has been published that explored collaborative governance arrangements for agri-environmental schemes delivered at a landscape scale, drawing on five case studies across the EU. The findings suggest that whilst farmers can become more involved over time, the most effective and efficient governance required some degree of professionalisation and government support.
  • Water management measures: A report into the introduction of innovative new water management measures for the Lunan Water has been produced. By incorporating stakeholder feedback, an appraisal of the management measures proposed to the riparian owners and the Balgavies Loch management committee was made. This indicated the key concern for the riparian owners was the presence of a robust long-term business and governance plan, while the key concern of regulators was that the impact on flows and water levels could be predicted, and the need for an assessment of ecological effects of water management change on the lochs and wetlands.
2016 / 2017
2016 / 2017

During the first year of this project, we established a programme of research based on Adaptive Management principles with stakeholders in key case studies: woodland management in the Cairnghorm National Park, Cumbernauld Linving Landscape, Balruddery Sustainable Catchment programme and the Lunan Water For All project. We developed a framework, based on a review of previous research, to investigate the appropriateness of Adaptive Management in a range of real land use contexts. In the case study areas, we identified barriers to uptake of current agri-environment and climate schemes, with the aim to propose ways in which these schemes could be adapted to better suit ther users’ needs. In relation to woodland as a land use change, we established how nature contributes to people in community based studies and are using this knowledge by linking it with mapping tools to support more effective delivery of multiple benefits from land use changes such as woodland expansion.


  • Convened two WP1.3-1.4 Ecosystem and Land Use Policy Engagement Group )ELPEG) meetings to provide two-way dialogue with policy staff from Scottish Government (Environment and Agriculture directorates) and their agencies. This included a supporting ELPEG bulletin highlighting ongoing activities that is being shared within these organisations and beyond.
  • We convened the 7th International Organisation for Biological Control (IOBC) Working Group meeting on Landscape Management for Functional Biodiversity, 29 - 31 March, 2017, Dundee, Scotland. https://www.iobc-wprs.org/events/archives.html

Future Activities

Ultimately, the research will produce a research briefing for policy and management audience on lessons learned across the different adaptive management case studies. In each of the case study areas, the research teams will have engaged with stakeholders to develop specific adaptations to current environmental management at the landscape scale and will establish learnings and propose ways forward to each of the case studies. In the Balruddery catchment, research will focus on potential policy options for the adoption of “magic margins”, an innovative, award-winning agri-environment management option developed at the James Hutton Institute, across the catchment. In the Cairngorms national park, researchers will develop the method of digital story-telling into a deliberative tool to guide adaptive management of woodland. Lessons will be learned from the Lunan catchment on the potential of Payments for Environmental Services for the adaptive management of water for multiple benefits at the landscape scale.

Selected Outputs




  • Vinten, A., Kuhfuss, L., Shortall, O, Stockan, J.; Ibiyemi, A., Addy, S., Pohle, I., Gabriel, M. and May, L. (2019) Water for all: towards an integrated approach to wetland conservation and flood risk reduction in a lowland catchment in Scotland, Journal of Environmental Management, forthcoming
  • PESLES project website. Please visit for more details and news on the Lunan Water case study.