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Practical interventions to realise multiple benefits and manage trade-offs

Work Package Integrated and Sustainable management of natural assets

Research Deliverable 
Realising multiple benefits and managing trade-offs


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.


2021 / 2022
2021 / 2022

In the last year of this research programme, researchers have focussed on drawing general conclusions from research done over the past 5 years:

  • A comparative analysis of different strands of research on urban green space and between co-management and learning approaches in urban and rural spaces have led to the production of several research notes and briefs.
  • The prototype Storymap presenting digital stories around woodland values has been tested with stakeholders through 3 workshops, and its potential as a deliberative tool for woodland management and expansion has been analysed.
  • A research brief presenting the main results of the PESLES project (2016-21) has been created and circulated to key stakeholders and a webinar was organised to discuss the main findings of the project on the potential of local Payment for Environmental Services schemes for the management of water levels to deliver multiple benefits (flood mitigation, biodiversity protection and drought alleviation) at the catchment scale.


  • Agri-Environmental Schemes for the provision of multiple benefits: Building on SRP work on the design of Agri-Environmental Schemes for the provision of multiple benefits, SEFARI researchers contributed to the XVI congress of the European Association of Agricultural Economics (EAAE) in July 2021. This included a session on “How to Promote the Collective Uptake of AESs by Farmers?”, and a discussion on “how the CAP can incentivise farmers to adopt greener practices” with a focus on the role of economic experiments to address this. A complementary paper was published through the researchers’ engagement in the REECAP network. One of the SEFARI researchers as well as all other board members of the REECAP network were awarded the 2022 CBEAR Prize for Agri-Environmental Innovation.
  • The potential of local Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes for the delivery of multiple benefits at the landscape scale: A research brief highlighting the key results from the  PESLES project for the SRP 2016-2022 on the Lunan and Loch Leven catchments has been published. A final workshop presenting these results was attended by 11 key stakeholders.
2020 / 2021
2020 / 2021

The key findings from a comparison of case studies across  three systems (arable farming, woodland expansion and water management) have been summarized in recommendations presented in a research brief aiming at supporting landscape-level adaptive management. Key recommendations were made are based on: understand the situation, direct stakeholders, and shared purpose; focus on the social relationships of landscape-level management; and assess ecological, economic, and social outcomes at every step of the adaptive management cycle.

Research briefs and reports for each of the case studies have also been produced and provide practical guidance for the landscape scale implementation of adaptive co-management for biodiversity (with a focus on collaborative management of Capercaillie by the Scottish Capercaillie Group), urban land and catchment management. A collaboration with researchers in France and Spain have led to the publication of a paper on the social dimensions of forest regeneration and biodiversity.

Building on previous years' work on farmers' collective action to achieve multiple environmental benefits at the landscape scale, the potential of result-based agri-environmental schemes as a tool for future Scottish Rural Development Programmes or other future programmes, to support the action of groups of farmers, was explored through a desk-based study comparing four case studies in Europe with key advantages and limitations highlighted. Results were presented in a research briefing.

The development of ESRI ArcGIS Storymaps, that collects the various digital stories collected during the project to help understand and share the different perceptions and views of woodland expansion and management, has been finalised and tested as a deliberative tool.

In the Lunan catchment, new simulations from a model forecasting water levels in the Lunan Water lochs showed the benefit to wetland conservation of re-instatement of a blocked off spillway and supported the decision of the catchment management group composed of local stakeholders, riparian owners and Agencies, on the future actions to be implemented in the catchment to reduce flood risks while preserving rare wetland biodiversity. The models developed have also been adapted and, through a collaboration with CEH, have demonstrated how updating management of the sluice gates at Loch Leven might help with reducing risk of algal blooms.


  • Rapid evidence assessment: Insights from WP 1.2 and 1.4 were used to complement the results of a Defra funded rapid evidence assessment of the Demonstration Test Catchment programme (2010-2018) and develop policy recommendations to assist with the development of the future Environment and Land Management Scheme. The findings were shared with over 80 policy makers during a webinar in June 2020.
  • Research network on Economic Experiments for the Common Agricultural Policy (REECAP): Researchers from WP1.4 have engaged with REECAP  and lead the organisation of the network’s 2020 annual meeting held online on the 1st and 2nd of September 2020. REECAP is an EU-wide informal consortium created in 2017. It aims to bring together researchers, experts and policymakers interested in the use of economic experimental approaches to evaluate and improve agricultural policies. Economic experiments are at the forefront of recent methodological developments to evaluate and provide evidence-based policy recommendations to improve the design of agricultural policies. These approaches are particularly useful to provide a methodological framework to test alternative practical interventions to realise multiple benefits and manage trade-offs.
  • Cooperative approaches to water management: A comprehensive 5-year study of water resources in the Lunan and Dee catchments has explored cooperative approaches to management of water flow and the linkages between land and water resources. Key findings are that land ownership, concerns over committing to long-term management of potential interventions, and the need for a stronger evidence base setting out benefits from interventions are important factors in establishing effective cooperative management schemes.
  • Landscape scale farm management: Building on the results from Theme 1 work on the environmental benefits of collective landscape scale farm management, the work is now taking on an international dimension. Supported by funding from the EU, Farmer Clusters like the one established in the Balruddery Catchment are being established across Europe with the objective of developing and implementing biodiversity friendly farming and promoting Integrated Pest Management. This approach is also gaining ground in Scotland with farmers keen to form landscape scale Clusters in Inverness-shire, Aberdeenshire, and Strathmore.
2019 / 2020
2019 / 2020

The analysis of initial case studies (on the place and system-specific aspects of collective approaches to adaptive management) in the 3 systems (arable farming, woodland expansion, and water management) has been completed and researchers have worked towards (i) the publication of results and (ii) the extension of research to new case studies for comparative analysis within systems.

In the arable farming case study, the research team has been working with a farmer group to trial a potential agri-environment measure to deliver multiple benefits at the landscape scale. The research team has also developed an innovative protocol to measure farmers preferences for alternative methods to support the implementation of such measures at the landscape scale in future agri-environmental policies.

Researchers leading the woodland expansion case study have focused on consolidating, processing and analysing the data from the digital stories, qualitative interviews and ethnographic research on the Cairngorms Capercallie Project from previous years.  This has resulted in the publication of two book chapters on mobile ethnography, and a paper on social relationships and adaptive management in the uplands (under review). Additional data for the comparative study on adaptive management in urban systems was collected and will be analysed in Y5. The team has also disseminated their research findings to various stakeholders including the Scottish Capercaille Group and the Landscape Leadership Programme (Soil Association).

In the area of water management, models have been developed to predict water levels and water quality as a function of hydraulic management. Stakeholder views on water quantity/quality issues have been sought in both catchments and the models will be piloted as aids for management decisions within the adaptive management framework.

Meanwhile, the cross comparison under the conceptual framework of adaptive management has identified commonalities across systems, drawn recommendations and started the dissemination to key stakeholders. The findings suggest that adaptive management at the landscape scale is important, but needs preparation, resourcing, and support. The social aspects of building and maintaining relationships are important and require monitoring and evaluation as much as ecological processes. The insights have proved useful to NGOs and agencies working on similar guidance.


  • Managing integrated Land Use Systems: Adaptive co-management of the Scottish Uplands. SEFARI researchers have produced a research brief summarising the role of social relationships and networks in how land managers adapt their management to change. Based on interviews with land managers it outlines the factors that facilitate or constrain learning and adaptive co-management. Recommendations include explicit attention to learning and reflection in collaborative management groups and a need for concerted efforts to build trust and bridges between different land managers and actors.
  • Adaptive catchment management: Working with stakeholders from the Lunan and Leven catchments, SEFARI scientists identified factors related to ownership and a strong evidence base as important in the adoption of long-term management actions. This is being communicated to local stakeholders through the catchment management groups and national stakeholders at CREW meetings, and more widely with presentations at the TEAGASC conference on Nov 7, and a recent paper highlighting the importance social attitudes in the success of integrated catchment management schemes.
  • Recommendations on the process of adaptive management at landscape scale were presented to stakeholders at the January 2020 Ecosystems and Land use Stakeholder Group meeting.
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.

Future Activities

With the research programme coming to an end, some of the research topics being investigated over the past 6 years are being carried over under new projects. The investigation of collective approaches for biodiversity enhancement in arable and horticultural farms is being continued under the Horizon Europe Framework project, the 2022-27 SRP under the topic B3 on farming best practices.

Research on the social dimensions of management change with farmers in NatureScot’s POBAS project will continue under topic D4 (People and Nature) of the new SRP, alongside the digital story-mapping work.

Selected Outputs





  • Macleod et al. 2019. Landscape level management case studies for ecological, economic and social outcomes: lessons learned. The James Hutton Institute.  Report, 24 pages.
  • Brown, K.M.; Lackova, P. (2020) Mobile video methods and wearable cameras, in Vannini, P. (ed.) Handbook of Ethnographic Film and Video, Routledge, London.
  • Brown, K.M. (in press) Doing multispecies ethnography with mobile video: Exploring animal-human contact zones, in Colombino, A. & Steinkrüger, J. (eds.) Methods in human-animal studies: the question(s) of the animal(s) in practice, Routledge Human-Animal Studies Series, Routledge, London.
  • Hewitt, R.J., and MacLeod, Kit, (C.J.A.) (2019) Assessment of landcover change in Scotland’s National Parks and their surrounding areas. The James Hutton Institute.
  • A new report on Development of hydraulic management options for the upper Lunan Water is available on the PESLES project website: PESLES project website