Victoria Keele


Humanity survives because we are graced with nature, or ‘ecosystem services’. In a time of turbulence caused by climate change and increasing population, there is debate surrounding the extent to which areas protected for biodiversity can deliver ecosystem services. Subsequently, the overarching aim of this PhD thesis is to determine if ecosystem service provision differs between Scottish river corridors with and without nature designations. To achieve the primary research aim, this thesis has a secondary aim of developing a methodology which can capture multiple riverine ecosystem services at the reach scale. Following an extensive review of the methods used to capture river ecosystem services, the Google Earth River Ecosystem Services (GE RES) tool is developed. This method advances the matrix-based Google Earth technique of Large and Gilvear (2015). Significant advancements built into GE RES which are valuable to the river ecosystem service community include: a framework based on empirical evidence, the inclusion of cultural services, confidence scores and appreciation of river corridor area. Of note, the development and analysis of a pilot survey linking river corridor features to cultural service preferences is particularly pioneering. A survey utilises photographs to elicit cultural service preferences for different river corridor features. Preferences are then used to create a preliminary matrix linking river corridor features to ecosystem service potential. To achieve the overarching research aim, paired analysis comparing four protected (Special Areas of Conservation) and unprotected Scottish rivers occurs. Undertaking GE RES assessments reveals that protected rivers appear to supply higher levels of ecosystem service potentials, and a greater diversity of services. Meanwhile, unprotected rivers are consistently identified to have greater agricultural potential and lower ecosystem service heterogeneity. Additionally, the nature of GE RES facilitates the production of ‘river ecosystem service long-profiles’, of remark, preliminary evidence indicates that nature designation may be associated with a higher prevalence of ecosystem service hotspots. This thesis concludes by discussing the significance of GE RES findings for the management of unprotected rivers, protected rivers, and ecosystem service hotspots.

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