Understanding ecostytem stocks and tipping points in UK blanket peatlands (short form: Peatland Tipping Points)

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Natural Sciences & Env Sciences

Abstract

The aim of this project is to use UK peatlands as a case system in which to understand how the combined effects of climate change and changes in land use and management (and other drivers, such as atmospheric deposition) may trigger tipping points in the provision ecosystem services. The project will specifically consider tipping points for water quality, climate mitigation and cultural services including biodiversity, recreation, tourism and sense of place. The research will then assess the economic, social and cultural value of avoiding these tipping points versus reaching them, and we will use these insights to inform management and policy to enhance the resilience of natural systems to abrupt changes in future.

As the most extensive and well-understood peatland habitat, we focus on blanket bogs, which are the UK's single largest carbon stock. The project will produce research findings in three themes:
1. Triggers: the research will consider how changes in climate, land use and management might trigger regime shifts in in blanket peatlands to degraded states. It will consider the range of biophysical and social factors that may influence whether these shifts also trigger tipping points in the provision of ecosystem services over space and time. Where possible, we will identify early warnings that may indicate systems are heading towards tipping points
2. Values: the research will assess the likely ecological, economic, social and cultural impacts of reaching tipping points in the provision of climate regulation, water quality and cultural services (including biodiversity) in blanket peatlands, and provide decision-makers with holistic evidence to guide decisions about whether, where and how to restore these habitats to avoid tipping points for specific ecosystem services
3. Adaptive management: working closely with stakeholders, the research will consider how different forms of peatland restoration might move blanket peatlands from current degraded states to desirable new stable states that can adaptively sustain the provision of ecosystem services from peatlands under future climate change. Working in collaboration with the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, the owners of the UK Peatland Code, the projects will explore opportunities for private investment combined with existing agri-environment scheme to adaptively manage and avoid tipping points in peatland ecosystem services.

Research findings from each of these themes will provide a range of benefits for policy and practice:
* Evidence of ecosystem service tipping points in UK blanket peatlands that can help prioritise policy measures to prevent key tipping points being reached. Recommendations will include practical restoration and other management options that could be incentivised via Rural Development Programmes , Peatland Action (in Scotland) and the UK Peatland Code, and spatial targeting of incentives and measures to systems and locations where tipping points are most likely to occur
* Evidence that could be used to inform an economic case for investment in peatland restoration, both in terms of avoiding future economic costs and social impacts
* Policy-makers, third sector organisations and practitioners will have early warning indicators that can be easily and effectively used to identify and avoid imminent tipping points
* Evidence to better articulate and quantify the benefits of peatland restoration for delaying and/or avoiding tipping points for multiple ecosystem services as part of the business case for investment in peatland restoration, for UK Peatland Code & Natural Capital Committee

Planned Impact

The impact goals of this research are to:
* Provide evidence of ecosystem service tipping points in UK blanket peatlands that can help prioritise policy measures to prevent key tipping points being reached. Recommendations will include practical restoration and other management options that could be incentivised via Rural Development Programmes, Peatland Action (in Scotland) and the UK Peatland Code, and spatial targeting of incentives and measures to systems and locations where tipping points are most likely to occur
* Provide evidence that could be used to inform an economic case for investment in peatland restoration, both in terms of avoiding future economic costs and social impacts
* Provide policy-makers, third sector organisations and practitioners with early warning indicators that can be easily and effectively used to identify and avoid imminent tipping points
* Provide evidence to better articulate and quantify the benefits of peatland restoration for delaying and/or avoiding tipping points for multiple ecosystem services as part of the business case for investment in peatland restoration, for UK Peatland Code & Natural Capital Committee

We will work closely with local stakeholders at each site to adapt the research as far as possible to their needs and deliver impacts that will benefit them. We will also engage with wider national stakeholders to derive impacts; based on a recent stakeholder analysis conducted for Defra by the PI, stakeholders can be broadly grouped as:
* Policy stakeholders: including Defra, DECC, the Devolved Administrations, agencies such as Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage, Climate Change Adaptation Sub-Committee, Natural Capital Committee and Forestry Commission. The team has a strong working relationship with Defra's soils team and each of the relevant policy leads in the DAs.
* Land owning and management community: including farmers, sporting estates and other private landowners and their representative bodies. The team works closely with National Farmers Union, the Moorland Association (England), Scotland's Moorland Forum and other groups.
* Third sector: including landowning NGOs such as RSPB, PlantLife and National Trust, and other NGOs that work and campaign on issues linked to peatlands e.g. Woodland Trust and John Muir Trust. The team already has close working relationships with all major environmental NGOs working in peatlands in the UK via the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, and we have good relationships with others such as Country Land and Business Association
* Professional bodies such as British Ecological Society, Royal Institute for Chartered Surveyors and Institute for Environmental Management and Assessment (our team are members of some of these bodies)
* Tourism and recreation interests, ranging from SMEs and their representative organisations (e.g. the Confederation of Small Businesses) and Local Access Groups to a wide range of organisations, associations and clubs, such as the British Mountaineering Council and the Ramblers Association.
* Water industry: the team have strong links via previous projects and consultancy work for all the UK water companies that source water from peatland catchments including South West Water, Yorkshire Water, United Utilities, Severn Trent, Nortumbria Water and Scottish Water. Interests focus primarily on tipping points relating to water quality
* Research organisations with interests in peatlands, including Higher Education Institutes, RCUK funded Centres and other Government funded research institutes such as Scotland's Main Research Providers.
* Publics with interests in conservation and climate change, and who pursue recreation and tourism in peatlands or engage with peatlands from time-to-time via other stakeholder interests above

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Prof Mark Reed with Profs Whittingham and Stead, led research that underpinned the development of Peatland Code Version 1.1, which was published later that year, and was part of a body of research informing the development of a UK Peatland Strategy. Between 2017-2020, Prof Reed led the Peatland Tipping Points project with Dr Gavin Stewart and Prof Mark Whittingham from Newcastle University, and project partner IUCN UK Peatland Programme who own and manage the Peatland Code (Prof Reed is their Research Lead). This produced new economic and ecological evidence to inform the ongoing development of the Code and its wider adoption in the UK and supported communication of the mechanism to stimulate private investment in peatland restoration internationally. In parallel with this, the team worked with the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to provide the most comprehensive analysis to date of links between land degradation and climate change [R3]. In collaboration with the UNCCD and the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), Prof Reed helped co-ordinate research on upscaling restoration and sustainable land management, leading to an official Global Land Outlook working paper and journal article that helped shape the UNCCD's first Global Land Outlook. Working with the UN Environment Programme-led Global Peatland Initiative and the UN Economics of Land Degradation Initiative, the team provided new evidence of the economic costs and benefits of peatland restoration versus inaction, providing the basis for broader uptake of payments for ecosystem services schemes to support peatland restoration. Finally, the team extended its approach to payments for ecosystem services via BBSRC funded research in collaboration with Nestle, leading to the development of a scheme paying price premiums to dairy farmers in return for the provision of ecosystem services and improved animal health.
Exploitation Route Newcastle University research has contributed to the design and implementation of the UK's first ever private-public Payment for Ecosystem Service scheme to pay for the restoration of damaged peatlands, the UK Peatland Code, and has led to international progress in public-private partnerships for peatland restoration by United Nations Conventions and Agencies. The Peatland Code is now bringing in investment from the private sector and has in excess of 20 restoration projects which are aligned with the Code saving GHG emissions worth approximately £9M. These projects are estimated to prevent emissions of 52kt/CO2e/yr of peat stocks to the atmosphere with a further 8,000t sequestered per year, post-restoration activity. This represents a significant step towards targets in the UK Peatland Strategy, which was informed by Newcastle Research and aims to save XXX tC by 20XX [details to follow]. The team at Newcastle team, via the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, are leading on an assessment of international policy across the 25 countries which represent 95% of peatland GHG emissions. This work has fed into the Global Assessment of Peatlands, co-ordinated by the UN Environment Program's Global Peatland Initiative. Newcastle University research on payments for ecosystem services in peatland habitats is now being applied beyond peatlands, through a £1.7M project providing evidence to underpin £XM investment by Nestle in its UK and international diary producer network, giving price premiums to farmers that enhance ecosystem services.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://www.peatlandtippingpoints.com
 
Description Impact 1: National policy (UK Peatland Code). Peatlands are the UK's largest carbon store, containing more carbon than the forests of France and Germany combined. Research at Newcastle University has contributed to the development and implementation of the Peatland Code, the first scheme of its kind in the UK and one of only two such schemes internationally. The scheme's place-based approach, based on Newcastle research, is unique and is being used as a template for the development of other Payment for Ecosystems services (PES) schemes for peatlands by the United Nations (see impact 3). So far, 4 projects have been validated or are in the process of validation, with 17 projects in the pipeline. Projects are spread across England, Scotland and Wales ranging from 77-XX hectares and 2-19.3 tCO2e/ha/yr emission reductions per project. It has been estimated by IUCN UK Peatland Programme that projects validated and in the pipeline for the Peatland Code will avoid the loss of at least 100,000 t/CO2e of peat stocks to the atmosphere. Private investment has been pivotal in making these projects possible, with additional finance supplementing public funding to facilitate projects that would have otherwise been impossible. Carbon finance for the first project came from Nex Group in 2018, delivering a saving of 6,484 tonnes CO2e, equivalent to 52 million kilometers (37,000 journeys from Lands End to John O'Groats) in an average UK car (based on 2018 DfT data). The Peatland Code was integral to a £4M European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development project that is leveraging private investment via 10 Code projects under development in some of Wales' most valuable peatland sites. A further 10 Peatland Code projects are under development as part of a £5.6M European LIFE project. The Woodland Carbon Code has now adopted a number of new guidelines (in version 2.0, released in November 2017) based on innovations pioneered in the Peatland Code, including a fixed risk buffer and a range of measures designed to improve its governance and robust operation. Discussions are underway to merge market registries for the two Codes, based on the registry created by the Peatland Code.

Impact 2: National policy (UK Peatland Stategy). The Peatland Code is a key component of the UK Peatland Strategy, and Newcastle University has contributed to the development of this strategy via the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, for which Reed is Research Lead. Drawing on research by Newcastle and others(see impact 1) the strategy provides a framework for peatland restoration funding by Defra, the Scottish Government and the Welsh Government alongside private investment. The strategy also includes the phasing out of peat in horticulture across the UK, the main reason we have lost 94% of our lowland raised peat bogs in the UK (there are just 6000 hectares left in good condition according to UK Biodiverity Action Plan Priority Habitat description). This part of the strategy is guided by a Technical Committee for Defra that Prof Reed sits on, that has fed into the design of the Responsible Sourcing and Manufacturing of Growing Media scheme [now widely adopted across the UK horticulture sector]. Collaboration between Newcastle University and the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, via Prof Reed's role as the Research Lead and the secondment of Dr Dylan Young, has been instrumental in enabling the organization to access, synthesise and communicate evidence from Newcastle research and beyond to inform peatland policy: testimonial from Clifton Bain, Director of IUCN UK PP [S1]. Testimonial from Defra about the role of Newcastle and IUCN work in informing the development of the UK Peatland Strategy and associated funding [S2]. This work is now informing the development of PES schemes in other systems across the UK via Landscape Enterprise Networks that are being tested by the Newcastle-led Resilient Dairy Landscapes project in collaboration with Nestle, 3Keel and Business in the Community. The pilot scheme pays price premiums to dairy farmers in return for the provision of ecosystem services, and shares features of the place-based approach to PES pioneered by Newcastle University via the Peatland Code. Testimonial from Andy Griffiths, Nestle UK and Ireland [S3]

Impact 3: International policy. Newcastle University researchers are working closely with the Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI, led by UN Environment and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation) to develop the first ever Global Peatland Assessment. Newcastle research on the Peatland Code [R1] is feeding into the chapter on blended finance mechanisms for peatland restoration, and Newcastle research on evidence synthesis for peatlands [R5] is underpinning mapping work in the report. Following Prof Reed's invited contribution to a GPI side event organized by UN Environment at UNFCCC COP24 in 2018, Prof Reed brokered a collaboration between GPI and IUCN to jointly publish Newcastle research on the implementation of IUCN Resolution 43 [R6; see below], calling for the development of national policies around the world to restore, protect and sustainably manage peatlands, including via public-private partnerships to pay for ecosystem services. Based on this work, Newcastle researchers are leading the policy chapter of the GPI's Global Peatland Assessment. Dianna Kopansky from UN Environment describes the contribution of Newcastle research to this initiative as, "quote" [S9].

Newcastle University research (Reed) was pivotal in securing IUCN Resolution 43 "Securing the Future of Global Peatlands" at the IUCN World Congress in 2016, the implementation of which is now being monitored by staff seconded from Newcastle University to IUCN UK Peatland Programme: Testimonial from IUCN international contact [S10]. This resolution specifically references the work of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme that Newcastle research informed (https://portals.iucn.org/congress/motion/046). Newcastle led work to monitor implementation of the Motion, showing that as a direct result of the Motion, new policies were introduced to protect peatlands in at least ten countries [R6].

Reed's 2016 book with Lindsay Stringer was co-published with the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) who commissioned the work "to bring new and useful insight towards the preparation of the new UNCCD operational strategy" (from Terms of Reference), and featured a foreword by the Executive Secretaries to the UNCCD and UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in which they stated their intention to foster closer collaboration between the Conventions based on the findings of the book [R1]. Testimonial from UNCCD Executive Secretary to be inserted here linking our work to the Convention's 10 year operational plan and links to UNFCCC [S5]. As the most comprehensive analysis to date of links between land degradation and climate change, this work has been instrumental in bringing together the political agendas of the UNCCD and UNFCCC around the potential for land-based climate adaptation and mitigation. The work features significantly in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Climate Change and Land Special Report (2018) (URL), and in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD) Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Thematic Assessment on Land Degradation and Restoration (2018), with Prof Reed as contributing author (URL).

To co-incide with the 13th Conference of the Parties in China, the UNCCD's Science-Policy Interface published a report on the contribution of sustainable land management to climate change adaptation and mitigation that relied heavily on Reed and Stringer's book (and cited five of Reed's papers) [S7]. At the same time, the UNCCD published their Global Land Outlook (GLO), which drew (pp.302-305) on work Reed helped co-ordinate as second author of a 2017 Global Land Outlook working paper with researchers from across the world's largest network of agricultural research institutions, the CGIAR. This concluded that the private sector has an important role to play in scaling up efforts to restore degraded land (p305), highlighting peatlands as having greater potential than any other agroecosystem to reduce or remove GHGs (Fig 10.2, p221) [S8].

First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Economic,Policy & public services