Multifunctional agriculture in floodplains in the UK : opportunities for agriculture to deliver ecosystem services
The concept of multifunctional agriculture, whereby agriculture is perceived to deliver a range of market and non market goods, including food production and nature conservation, has been used to justify continued income support for farmers in the face of criticism from the World Trade Organisation. As a consequence, policies to support non-market services associated with rural landscapes continue to operate through agricultural policies. More recently, the concept of ecosystems services has gained prominence, forging the links between natural processes, ecological systems and human welfare. This could encourage a move from agriculturally focussed policies to broader rural environment policies concerned with the management of natural capital and the flows of ecosystem services.
Some of these issues are being played out in the floodplains of rural England. Between 1950 and 1980, many flood defence and drainage schemes were implemented in rural floodplains to increase production of agricultural commodities and support farm incomes. More recently, changing priorities, evident in reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy, the EU Water Framework and Habitat Directives and UK government initiatives such as Making Space for Water, are encouraging a re-appraisal of land management option for floodplain areas.
Floodplain land has potential to deliver a range of goods and services associated not only with production of agricultural commodities but also water regulation, landscapes and wildlife, and recreation and amenity. Whereas the multi-functionality approach places agriculture as the main delivery agent, linking delivery of public goods to agri-environment policy, the ecosystems services approach has potential to develop an integrated approach to the management of floodplain land and water. An example in the floodplain of the River Trent is used to illustrate the approach, drawing on work conducted under the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme.
multifunctionality; agriculture; ecosystem services; rural land use
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Conference event title
Congress of the European Society for Rural Sociology