Ecosystem Service Descriptions

Multifunctional Ecosystem Service Opportunities

The multifunctional ecosystem opportunity score identifies areas where projects and interventions are likely to deliver the greatest improvement to the widest range of ecosystem services.

The multifunctional opportunity scores ranges from 0 to 30 and is made up by overlaying the opportunity scores of the following ecosystem services:

  • Water Quality Improvement 0-5
  • Wetland Creation (Low flow enhancement) 0-5
  • Flood Attenuation 0-5
  • Habitat Creation 0-5
  • Carbon Sequestration 0-5
  • Recreation 0-5

Exclusion Areas.  Some areas are unsuitable for projects because they are already in demand for other uses.  These areas, which include high grade agricultural land and urban developments, are excluded from the multifunctional opportunity map.

Multifunctional ecosystem service opportunity areas tend to be concentrated at the headwaters of our main river systems and the coastal areas to the south of the AONB.  Existing high value areas such as the Minsmere RSPB reserve have a low score because the opportunities for enhancement are limited.  These areas, which require continued maintenance or protection, are highlighted in the Ecosystem Services Risk Map.

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Multifunctional Ecosystem Services Provision/Risk

The multifunctional ecosystem services provision map shows where the ecosystem is already successfully providing a range of services and therefore requires protection/maintenance to avoid degradation.  The score is created by overlaying the following features:

  • Water Quality (risk areas)
  • Suitable Wetland (baseflow enhancement) areas
  • Flood risk attenuation areas
  • Existing valuable habitats
  • Carbon stocks (high carbon soils and woodland)
  • Existing recreation infrastructure

Exclusion areas are not included in this layer.

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Water Quality Opportunities

The water quality opportunity map identifies areas where there is an increased risk of surface and groundwater contamination and where protection/enhancement measures are likely to have the greatest benefit.

The Water Quality opportunity score ranges from 0 to 8 and includes the following elements:

  • Proximity to rivers (1 if within 50m of a river, otherwise 0)
  • Steepness of slope (1 if over 5o, otherwise 0)
  • Soil type with permeable soils are considered to be higher risk (2, 1 or 0)
  • Hydrological connectivity, including slope and proximity to the water course (0, 1 or 2)
  • Land cover, with low risk natural habitats scoring 0, pasture, 1 and cultivated land considered to be most at risk scoring 2)

The steeper valleys, where there is a rapid travel time between the potential source of pollution and the river, dominate this map along with the cultivated light soils of the Sandlings where pollutants can easily enter the groundwater of the shallow Crag aquifer.

Exclusion areas are not included in this layer and further work is required to assess the risk of pollution from urban areas.

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Wetland (low flow) Opportunities

The wetland opportunity map identifies areas where we may be able to create wetlands to hold back water in wet periods so that it is released slowly throughout the year, helping to supplement river flows during drought periods.

The wetland opportunity score ranges from 0 to 6 and includes the following elements:

  • Soil suitability. Impermeable, water retaining soils score highest (0 or 2).
  • Floodplain with a higher score in the zone 2 floodplain (0 or 2).
  • Hydrological connectivity, including slope and proximity to the water course (0, 1 or 2).
  • Exclusion areas, including urban areas, priority habitats and grade 1 agricultural land (0).

Water meadows, low lying wetlands and other riverine features dominate these opportunity areas because of their suitable soils and Hydrological connectivity. Other benefits include habitat creation and flood mitigation.  These additional ecosystem services are scored on separate layers.

Exclusion areas (including high value agricultural land and existing wetlands) show where the potential for wetland creation is limited because the catchment is already providing a highly valued service.  These areas will be subject to further investigation and refinement.

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Wildlife Habitat Creation Opportunities

The habitat creation opportunity map identifies areas of land which are suitable for the restoration or creation of natural habitats to enhance the ecological network in the catchment.

The habitat creation opportunity score ranges from 0 to 5, and includes the following elements:

  • Wetland suitability (from the wetland opportunity map) (0 or 2)
  • Proximity to existing habitats including designated sites and ancient woodlands. (0 or 1)
  • Strategic or priority areas (identified within the Natural England Habitat Network). (0 or 1)
  • Exclusion areas, which score 0, include existing designated sites, urban areas and high value agricultural land.

One of the key criteria included in this process is the wetland (low flow) opportunities map.  This is combined with the proximity to existing designated sites and Natural England’s Habitat Network to indicate additional suitability.

It is important to remember that this map shows opportunity areas for enhancement of the ecological network rather than the existing habitats in the landscape.

In general habitat creation opportunities are more prevalent in the river valleys and natural features of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB. Other areas attracting high opportunity scores include woodlands such as North Suffolk and the coastal margins.

There are a number of factors that make it less likely that wetland creation could be undertaken in a particular location. These are excluded from the opportunity identification process, and include the presence of development, existing natural habitats, existing designated sites, important historical features, contaminated land and highly productive agricultural land.

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Recreational Opportunities

Showing where the natural landscape provides the optimum balance of features which if enhanced would have the maximum beneficial impact on the health well-being and quality of life of the population.

The recreational opportunity score ranges from 0 to 4, and includes the following elements:

  • Proximity to urban areas (2km) with populations exceeding 12,000, scores 1
  • Areas within 500m of green spaces (including watercourses) score 1
  • Designated priority areas (eg AONB) score 1 for each designation (up to a maximum of 2).

Recreational opportunity areas are concentrated around the larger urban centres and within the AONB.  The current map does not currently show the additional recreational potential of the coast and estuaries, or take into account smaller communities.  These will be included in later editions of these maps.

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