LlyG member blog: Why creating community woodland experiences is vital to Natural Resources Wales’ evolving ecosystem approach

Posted on December 4, 2013 by

This months’ guest blog comes from Gareth Ellis, Community Projects Manager for the The Green Valleys CiC, Brecon Beacons, who have supported several new community woodlands.

With the Natural Resources Wales’ founding principle to deliver sustainable development through an ecosystem approach, Gareth examines what ‘ecosystems services’ mean for community woodlands, and why encouraging woodland experiences is key to our future…

‘Ecosystem services’ is a term that is here to stay in Wales. Our former environmental bodies (CCW, FCW and EAW) have now been combined into a single body; Natural Resources Wales, with a founding principle to deliver sustainable development through an ecosystem approach.

What are Ecosystems Services?

An understanding of ecosystem services underpins the ecosystem approach. What are ecosystem services? They are the benefits we can derive from  ecosystems and landscapes; services such as water purification and storage, plant pollination and  food that  we can grow for our own consumption.

The ecosystem approach aims to value these benefits alongside other activities designed to improve our economy or meet  a social need – but which often come at an environmental cost. For too long our decision makers looked at the environment as being disconnected from or  a barrier to economic development, rather than grasping that our economic and social systems are dependent on  functioning ecosystems.

Ecosystems Services and Woodland Work

For those of us who work closely with woodlands, the links between our woodlands and the economic and social benefits we enjoy are clear (even though we may not call them “ecosystem services”!).   Adopting this new ecosystem approach should  be straightforward, however, it is fundamentally changing our approach to decision-making  and  it will take time for our government and elected representatives to fully understand and adopt this approach.

Furthermore, our system of laws, statutory duties, regulations and even environmental protection has been put together piece by piece over decades – and none of it with reference to the  principles of the ecosystem approach. The Welsh Government now has the opportunity to address this problem with its forthcoming program of new legislation for the environment, planning and sustainability. This is a once in a  generation chance to get things right and provide a functioning framework toLlyG event - Photo LlyG Mark Saunders positively protect, improve and restore the priceless living systems in Wales that sustain every part of our society.

So what can we do to help? With such a fundamental change to the way we look at land use and development, we cannot expect our politicians to restructure our whole system of regulation (and the often entrenched views of some groups and individuals who may resist change) by waving a magic wand. But what we can do is to provide opportunities for our local councilors and assembly members to join us in our woodlands, to see, feel, smell and hear these ecosystems and to encourage them to experience their benefits. Only then will they be able to understand why protecting and restoring Welsh ecosystems is so important for our future.



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