Social, economic and environmental implications of increasing rural land use under energy crops, 2006-2009
This is a mixed method data collection. The study is part of the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme.
This project integrated social, economic, hydrological and biodiversity studies in an interdisciplinary approach to assess the impacts of converting land to Miscanthus grass and short-rotation coppice (SRC) willows. The approach adopted was the Sustainability Appraisal Framework, more commonly used in land-use planning. Two contrasting farming systems were focussed on: the arable-dominated East Midlands; and grassland-dominated South West England. The multi-disciplinary team of researchers studied social acceptability of introducing SRC willows and Miscanthus grass in these areas, in addition to water-use studies, GIS-based suitability mapping, farm and regional economics studies and biodiversity impacts. Data generated include a public attitudes survey, measures of focal indicator taxa, GIS visualisations and hydrological measurements.
The analysis of public attitudes was based upon a public questionnaire survey, focus group meetings with community groups, insights from stakeholder meetings, and interviews with key industry and local government officers. In total the views of over 550 people contribute to the findings. The questionnaire survey sought to ascertain the general level of knowledge and approval of various renewable energy sources, understanding of the term biomass, and specific knowledge of Miscanthus and SRC. Photographs of the crops were used as a visual aid and to gather views on the acceptability of introducing Miscanthus and SRC into the local landscape setting. GIS-based computer generated real-time landscape models, and other computer generated static images were produced and used alongside photographs in more in-depth interviews and focus groups.