Soil organic matter: Ecosystem services, public goods and economic value in post-brexit Wales

Prof. Bernard Cosby1, Amy Thomas1, Steven Anthony2, Chris Bell1, Ian Dickie3, Alice Fitch1, Richard Gooday2, Esther Kettel6, Laurence Jones1, Robert Matthews4, Gavin Siriwardena6, Claudia Steadman7, Dan Thomas5, Massimo Viena7, Bridget Emmett1

1Centre For Ecology And Hydrology, Environment Centre Wales, Bangor, Gwynedd, United Kingdom, 2ADAS, Coxwell Avenue, Wolverhampton, United Kingdom, 3Economics for the Environment Consultancy (eftec), 4 City Road, London, United Kingdom, 4Forest Research, Alice Holt Lodge, Farnham, Surrey, United Kingdom, 5Public Health Wales, Wales, 2 Capital Quarter, Tyndall Street, Cardiff, United Kingdom, 6British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk, United Kingdom, 7Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Bush Estate, Penicuik, Midlothian , United Kingdom

The UK national governments face a significant challenge anticipating potential impacts of Brexit on the agricultural sector and wider environment. To meet this challenge in Wales, the “Quick Start” program (QS), partnering Welsh Government, stakeholders and a consortium of research organisations, combined expert knowledge and a range of decision and modelling tools to examine effects of land use changes that might result from three different Brexit trade scenarios. QS explored potential outcomes and areas at risk for each scenario, and provided a range of ‘what if’ exercises for different land management options designed to provide sustainable ecosystem services delivering public goods for future well-being in Wales post-Brexit. The carbon pools and processes of soil organic matter (SOM) underpin most of the services and public goods crucial to the outcomes of the QS Brexit scenarios and exploratory management exercises. Potential national land use change patterns were mapped at field and farm scale for each Brexit scenario. These areas were combined with other national data sources to run agricultural, woodland and ecological models estimating the range of potential national-scale “knock-on” impacts on SOM-mediated ecosystem goods and services (e.g. water quality, carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions). The ‘what if’ exercises included woodland expansion and reduction of agricultural activity on peatland and in low quality farmland for three contrasting landscape types. Economic values were derived for four public goods resulting from the management changes to explore how these varied by landscape type. Key QS outputs include maps of area and location of land potentially at risk of change under the different Brexit trade scenarios across Wales, their environmental consequences and the highly variable economic value (per hectare) of additional public goods which may be delivered under different post-Brexit land management change scenarios.


Dr. Cosby has over 40 years of research experience in the U.S., Canada and Europe studying the hydrology and biogeochemistry of soils and natural waters. His research focuses on development of process-based ecosystem models for catchment soils, low-order streams and small lakes, and coastal and estuarine systems. He uses these models for increasing scientific understanding and as tools for knowledge transfer and environmental decision-making.


7th International Symposium
Soil Organic Matter

6 – 11 October 2019

Hilton Adelaide

Adelaide, South Australia


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