Ecosystem benefits in urban water environments

Dr Alexandra Collins, from the Centre for Environmental Policy, researches ways to inform and improve environmental decision making and environmental sustainability. Dr Collins has been working with national and local government organisations in the UK to improve local understanding of the environment, local collaboration, and local decision making within catchments – geographic areas defined naturally by surface water hydrology. 

Seed funding from the ESRC IAA helped to develop the foundations of the relationships with both DEFRA and the Environment Agency and has provided the framework for the work that Dr Collins has co-produced with the two agencies. The work has culminated with the production of a public toolkit “Ecosystem Benefits in Urban Water Environments”, to which Dr Collins has made substantial contributions. The toolkit provides information on interventions that can be used to enhance or increase ecosystem services provision in urban areas, and provides cost-benefit analysis of the interventions. The website contains a number of case studies detailing how the toolkit has benefitted local planning for ecosystem development and monitoring.

As a direct result of the significantly strengthened relationships and influence of the work within DEFRA and The Environment Agency, Alex was able to secure a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship. Through this fellowship, Alex aims to continue to influence policy and practice at both organisations with respect to their approaches to catchment management, especially reinforcing the need to account for the socio-economic dynamics and the relationship between the geography of the population.

Through her work on this project Dr Collins has developed new collaborations with local decision makers at Leicester, Manchester and Southampton Councils. She has also presented the work at the Valuing Nature Partnerships Conference on Participatory Decision Making and has been invited to give a talk at the Prosperous Cities event at London City Hall.