Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology

1. The Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), a research centre of the Natural Environment Research Council, welcomes the white paper. The paper shows a most appropriate commitment to the protection and enhancement of our environment and the critical role it plays in maintaining a healthy society by supporting our quality of life and in underpinning wealth creation.

2. Particularly we welcome Commitments (number)

2.1To build on the National Ecosystem Assessment to provide scientific evidence and interpretation to support policy and implementation of an Ecosystems Approach (1).

2.2The need to continue to undertake statistically robust long term monitoring and research at appropriate spatial and temporal scales to provide evidence to inform policies, and identify emergent risks and opportunities at a national level. We hope to see that initiatives described in the white paper such as the success of the offsetting pilot (15) and the reform of the planning system (14) will be underpinned with scientific evidence and research.

2.3To more joined up information sharing thus creating better understanding and two-way knowledge exchange (24).

2.4The need for more research in soils; we hope that this will lead to a co-ordinated Soils Survey being established to monitor the stock, quality and vulnerability of UK soils from bedrock to surface (25).

2.5To explore use of environmental data holdings for the purposes of supporting the green economy (36 & 37). Environmental datasets need to be accessible, understandable and comprehensive. CEH has provided the largest number of environmental datasets that are INSPIRE ready on the data.gov.uk site though its Information Gateway (https://gateway.ceh.ac.uk/) which has been held up as an example of good practice to meet INSPIRE requirements by the European Joint Research Centre (82).

3. Omissions

3.1We welcome the aim to enhance the involvement of and value that can be gained from citizen science (76). CEH has considerable experience in this area eg running the Biological Records Centre and the National Biodiversity Network (holding > 15,000,000 records from 80 citizen recording schemes) and other citizen schemes monitoring pesticides, greenhouse gases and seabird populations. Based on this experience we believe that an omission is the explicit recognition that citizen science is only effective when sound national scientific standards are set, the survey design is robust and the monitoring and data collection is managed to high QA standards through appropriate coordination at a national level. If this does not happen the data gathering, although potentially great in quantity, will not be fit for the purpose of providing data for interpretation to provide evidence to measure environmental change and identify the causes.

3.2There is a omission regarding the need to fill knowledge gaps, perhaps identified through local partnerships, through “more joined up” monitoring, data and modelling at a national level “to enhance our understanding of the state of ecosystem services” (88) and the need to exchange the subsequent insights to the local partnerships.

20 June 2011

Prepared 16th July 2012