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Catchment Management Using Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) to Restore and Maintain Upland Peat

Research Funding Body

NERC Valuing Nature Network;
Centre for Ecology and Hydrology; IUCN UK Committee


Bain, C., Bonn, A., Evans, C., Glenk, K., Hirst, V., Holden, Martin-Ortega, J and Reed, M

Project Objectives 

The aim of the meeting is to exchange knowledge between water companies and other stakeholders to:

  • Address barriers and identify options for meeting Water Framework Directive (WFD) objectives in uplands/peatlands
  • Share experience of practical examples and ideas
  • Assess the economics of WFD implementation in uplands/peatlands, including how Payments for Ecosystem Services schemes might help reduce the cost of WFD implementation
  • Identify the best ways to continue sharing knowledge on these issues.

Why relevant to improve implementation and uptake of water quality measures?

This project is concerned with how to better improve catchment management in peatland areas, based on the exchange of knowledge between a large range of stakeholders. A key focus of the workshop, was on understanding more about the barriers to improving upland catchment management for the delivery of multiple benefits.


A workshop took place on the 22nd of August 2012 involving over 70 individuals from over 40 organisations. As well as a number of presentations from scientist and practitioners in the morning, there were also break-out group and plenary discussions in the afternoon session.

Key Results

The break-out group on the barriers for improving upland catchment management for the delivery of multiple services identified 4 different categories of barriers: financial, cultural, regulatory and lack of evidence.

  • Financial barriers: the access to funding was considered to be critical and a need for more collaboration to bring in funds was identified (e.g. joint payments for collaborative action of land managers). Ways and conditions to access funding should simplified (reduced bureaucracy) and access to funding for preventing further deterioration (rather than only for restoration) should be made available.
  • Cultural/Social barriers: Resistance to change and lack of perception of the problem from the side of the land manager was identified as an important cultural barrier. Lack of communication and interaction/trust and competing/conflicting objectives between different stakeholders (for example, new comers to rural areas and local population) was seen a problem; as well as the loss of rural communities know how. In general, the lack of education and awareness level from the general public and lack of confidence and ambitious political will were also considered as barriers.
  • Regulatory barriers: Lack of coordination, consistency and continuity of policies overtime were identified as important barriers. Conflicting objectives between and within government agencies is problematic. Also, the fact that information and punishment comes from the same agency generates distrust. Clear regulatory frameworks regarding some specific issues seem to be missing (e.g. specific regulation on PES is missing, there is no clear framework yet for carbon offsetting on wetlands/tree/timber production).
  • Lack of evidence: from the natural sciences (e.g. evidence regarding ecological impacts of land interventions) but also in relation to socio-economic aspects (eg. what are the benefits and who are the beneficiaries, what values should be used?). Regarding specifically PES, lack of evidence regarding the most appropriate payment settings is problematic (e.g. should there be payments for bundled services, cross-paying of water companies, how to deal with global issues, how large are the transaction costs?). Monitoring in upland headwaters was considered insufficient, so there is no enough evidence to inform decisions. A need for continuing research and delivering evidence was identified to address knowledge uncertainties
  • A fifth element regarding temporal scales was seen as connecting and affecting all the above categories. Timing regarding the delivery and access of funds in relation to the timing of implementation of the measures was seen as a barrier. Being able to manage different time expectations of all involved parties is a challenge. Finally, the time lag for the appearance of benefits is also seen as a difficulty.



Contact person

Vikki Hirst (; Julia Martin-Ortega (

More information

Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.