Problem Addressed

This solution was sourced in response to UKGBC’s Innovation Challenge: “How can communities and local authorities implement, maintain, and assess the impact of nature-based solutions to enhance climate resilience?”

Solution Overview

EcoservR seeks to bring together data from a variety of nationally available sources to provide greater spatial clarity on ecosystem services and natural capital assets, which can be difficult to assess. EcoservR is a tool for mapping natural capital assets and ecosystem services developed as an open-source, free-to-use R package.

EcoservR takes data from nationally available datasets such as Ordnance Survey (OS) MasterMap, OS Greenspace, Priority Habitat Inventory, CORINE Land Cover, Crop Map of England and more to create a detailed habitat map. From this habitat map and supporting data, EcoservR measures supply for seven ecosystem services, and demand for four. Unlike spreadsheet-based tools which return a single score, EcoservR uses spatial models which consider not only the extent of different habitats but also their configuration. It returns heat maps showing the distribution of supply and demand across the landscape.

A powerful application of EcoservR is to calculate the change in ecosystem service supply pre and post-intervention, to predict the potential impact (uplift) of a design. This change can be calculated at any desired geographic extent, from site to landscape-scale.

By overlaying supply and demand maps, the user can also identify areas of opportunity (“pinch points”) where NBS would improve capacity and/or answer demand for ecosystem services.

The toolkit is freely available for anyone to use, in practice, a person with programming and GIS skills is best placed to conduct the analysis efficiently and rigorously. There may therefore be an organisational need to upskill planners or outsource the analysis to experienced consultants.

Verification & Case Study

The tool has had its effectiveness measured through continued monitoring of modelled interventions following the Urban GreenUP project, demonstrating environmental net gain in these areas. It is also subject to habitat classification being tested and reviewed when local data (e.g. Phase 1 ecological survey) are available to make models and predictions as accurate as possible. The impact of this can be demonstrated through continued usage of the tool in Liverpool City Region to assess the impact of NBS to achieve greater climate resilience as well as other ecosystem service benefits.

Case Study:

The EcoservR approach was chosen by architects and designers EcoResponsive Environments to support their application to the “Vision of the Future” competition hosted by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Their brief was to transform The Heath Business and Technical Park in Runcorn, Cheshire into a sustainable living and commercial site. Their design included several nature-based solutions such as street trees, woodland creation and restoration, water management through SUDs, and the creation of a long natural corridor for green travel and recreation.

EcoservR was used to model “before” and “after” assessments of natural assets and ecosystem services, and helped EcoResponsive Environments evidence their ambition to deliver environmental net gain with the new Heath Park development, with notable gains predicted for air purification, carbon storage, heat island effect reduction, noise regulation and pollination, for instance. They won the RIBA competition in 2020 and have since used the outputs from the first analysis to feed into other tools, like GI-Val for economic valuation of ecosystem services.

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