Transforming the Trent Valley

Project overview
The Transforming the Trent Valley (TTTV) scheme creates positive change for wildlife, built heritage and communities. The £4.7 million scheme, partially funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, is a partnership of 18 organisations delivering a wide range of environmental, cultural and community-led projects across 200 square kilometres. Examples of projects being delivered through the scheme include restoring rivers and floodplains, improving pathways and cycleways, and creating ways to reconnect communities with their natural heritage. Work on the scheme began in 2019 and will continue for at least five years.

Our role
Binnies, an RSK company, was commissioned to map and value the habitats and land cover – our natural capital – within the TTTV study area. We set up an online ‘Storymap’ so the public can explore the area’s habitats (the natural capital stock), the environmental benefits we get from them (the flows or ecosystem services) and the economic benefits they give us (their value), for example, reduced healthcare or water-treatment costs. The purpose of the Storymap was to help the public understand how the local landscape benefits them, to attract funding for project opportunities and to support Staffordshire Wildlife Trust in its goal of connecting and protecting 30% of the region’s land for nature’s recovery by 2030.

Our strong multidisciplinary team designed and produced the publicly accessible and interactive Storymap. The information is presented in a clear and visually stimulating way.

Challenges

  • Initially, the client asked for the information to be presented in a written report. We worked closely with the client and showed that the Storymap would be more accessible than a text-based document and better meet their goals.
  • It became clear, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, that presenting the natural capital assessment and valuation online in a colourful, interactive manner was the right thing to do; we adjusted our working pattern accordingly to ensure we exceeded client needs in difficult circumstances.
  • We ensured that natural capital accounting, a highly technical subject, was conveyed in an easy to understand and interesting way.

Solutions

  • We manually checked for and resolved anomalies in the satellite images using state-of-the-art software, meaning issues arising from visual data limitations could be minimised.
  • The Storymap is interactive, making it much more engaging than static images. All data are presented in a simple and visually appealing way, with accompanying graphs and figures to aid understanding.
  • The Storymap changes to reflect the varying ecosystem services across the landscape, so that it is easy to home in on particular benefits of interest such as how carbon sequestration or air pollutant attenuation varies across a landscape.

Benefits and Achievements

1
Enhanced valuation

Giving a monetary value to habitats is important, otherwise we risk ignoring the benefits they give us when making decisions about land activities. This project estimated the monetary value of the habitats in the TTTV area at just over £20 million.

2
Opportunity identification

The project identified and valued nature recovery opportunities including the creation and restoration of woodlands, hedgerows, grasslands, ponds, water meadows and riparian habitats. We estimated that, if just 10% of the opportunities for recovery were carried out, they could, over 50 years, sequester about 10,000 to 12,000 tonnes of carbon, representing an additional £200,000 to £300,000 per year in the value of the area’s natural capital.

3
Client satisfaction

The project outputs were positively received and Binnies has since collaborated with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust to present on the topic of the TTTV natural capital valuation and Storymap, and to discuss the positive impacts that Binnies contributed.

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