Researchers involved in the water and ecosystem services research theme contributed towards a ground-breaking National Ecosystem Assessment for the UK. The UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) was the first analysis of the UK’s natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and continuing economic prosperity. The need for the UK NEA arose from findings of the 2005 global Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), which not only demonstrated the importance of ecosystem services to human well-being, but also showed that at global scales, many key services are being degraded and lost. As a result, in 2007 the House of Commons Environmental Audit recommended that the Government should conduct a full MA-type assessment for the UK to enable the identification and development of effective policy responses to ecosystem service degradation (House of Commons Environmental Audit, 2007).
The UK NEA helped people to make better decisions that impact on the UK’s ecosystems to ensure the long-term sustainable delivery of ecosystem services for the benefit of current and future populations in the UK, thereby addressing the needs set out in Defra’s current Action Plan for Embedding an Ecosystems Approach (2007).
The UK NEA also supported global and regional obligations such as the Convention on Biological Diversity’s call on countries to conduct such assessments and the European Union Water Framework Directive, which encourages the management of ecosystem services.
In 2014, there was a follow-on project to the first National Ecosystem Assessment (2011). Professor Andrew Church of the Centre for Aquatic Environments was the principal investigator for work package 4 (Cultural Ecosystem Services) of the National Ecosystem Assessment.