NatureScot Research Report 1343 - Source to Sea - enabling coherent, efficient and synergistic outcomes
Year of publication: 2023
Authors: Celeste Kellock (NatureScot; University of Stirling), Chris Leakey (NatureScot), Christian Schröder (University of Stirling), Nicola Melville (SEPA), Janet Khan (SEPA), Scot Mathieson (SEPA)
Cite as: Kellock, C., Leakey, C., Schröder, C., Melville, N., Khan, J. and Mathieson, S. 2023. Source to Sea - enabling coherent, efficient and synergistic outcomes. NatureScot Research Report 1343.
NatureScot, SEPA and the University of Stirling recognise that more needs to be done to address the twin climate and biodiversity crises. This report explores the potential to build on existing good practices, to enable more effective, coherent management of land, freshwater and sea, and to target action to where we can achieve improved outcomes for the environment and society in Scotland. The report is based on a collation of expert insights, experiences and recommendations from a broad community of relevant people and organisations across multiple sectors and specialisms, collected across a series of workshops and other discussions. The authors are very grateful to all of those who generously contributed their time and ideas.
This report provides a helpful, early think-piece to stimulate more discussions, and to help inform future approaches to source-to-sea thinking in Scotland. We will continue to discuss the recommendations further, within and between our organisations, and with Scottish Government.
source to sea; land-use; marine; collaboration; environmental management; connectivity; water; soil
This report is the result of an internship project between NatureScot, SEPA and the University of Stirling. The objective was to open dialogue, exploring and promoting opportunities for more coherent source-to-sea management in Scotland, including a high-level review of land-sea connections in Scottish policy. This was partly achieved through two core workshops. The workshops were supplemented by discussions with environmental practitioners and policy contacts within NatureScot, and with other agencies, government departments and researchers, to gauge ambitions, opportunities and challenges for more holistic management across environmental systems. The potential for a step-change in action addressing the non-energy dimensions of the climate and nature crises is the primary driver, while also recognising the many positive synergies with social and economic outcomes.
This project report aims to:
- Highlight opportunities for more holistic environmental management from land to sea in Scotland.
- Explore multiple benefits of the source-to-sea approach, showing how it can contribute to multiple strategies, policies and goals, across the environment, society and economy.
- Convey how policies could better enable integration and coherent management decisions that reflect the connectivity of land, freshwater and sea.
- Investigate the extent of source-to-sea management intent within current Scottish policy drivers.
- Explore the challenges to, and solutions for, source-to-sea approaches.
- Develop recommendations for progressing source-to-sea approaches.
While focussed on Scotland, dialogue and insights have been wide-reaching, with examples and inspiration from around the UK and internationally. Many of the conclusions and recommendations are relevant to other countries and regions.
- There is no room for complacency in addressing the twin nature-climate crisis. There is raised ambition on net zero, to halt biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and a greater appetite and opportunity for nature restoration and recovery, but ambition must be partnered with action. Recognising deficiencies in our current approaches can unlock new opportunities to deliver existing commitments in an efficient and timely manner.
- The entwined challenges for climate and nature are underpinned by cumulative disruption to the fundamental biophysical processes and systems of Earth, from regional to planetary scales. Solutions therefore need to address those disrupted systems (see Figure 1); source-to-sea approaches that avoid fragmenting the components of the system should be an important part of our response.
- The fragmentation of environmental management frequently separates work on land, freshwater, estuaries, coasts and seas, overlooking their inherent connectivity via the water environment. Water itself is a fundamental ecosystem attribute but is also the medium for a multitude of biophysical flows. Some ‘flows’ are anthropogenic (e.g. contaminants); other flows are natural (e.g. species, carbon, nitrogen, organic matter) but human activity can cause them to become unbalanced and detrimental to nature and people.
- Despite some limited success with integrated approaches, such as catchment scale management, working across these geographical units, specialisms and sectors remains the exception. Better recognition and communication of the multiple benefits of an action, across environmental, social and economic interests, can inspire new and expanded partnerships across disciplines, sectors and geographical jurisdictions.
- Scotland already has key government strategies, such as the Land Use Strategy, National Planning Framework 4 and the Blue Economy Vision, giving direction for multiple benefits arising from better integration of governance from land to sea. However, their clear intent for a connected approach is not always realised at an operational level. Some issues fall between the gaps, and opportunities are missed to incentivise better upstream-downstream outcomes. Often, we fail to recognise and celebrate (sometimes distant) benefits of positive changes on land and in freshwater, thus understating the true value of nature and our actions.
- With scope for regulatory, technological and behavioural solutions, to name a few, the solutions proposed in this report are not just for NatureScot. These challenges are fundamentally tied to the biophysical processes of Earth systems and the potential for nature-based solutions are plentiful. Through a source-to-sea approach we can find synergy with blended solutions from a variety of sectors and specialisms.
- There is considerable appetite to embrace source-to-sea approaches, amongst public bodies, charitable and private sectors, to plug gaps in our environmental management systems and to create synergies and efficiencies through joint action. The source-to-sea narrative can lend itself to creative engagement, to capture public attention and connect communities to the wider environment, but also to coax professionals from narrow silos and embrace new ways of working.
- Source-to-sea action can deliver multiple long-term benefits that include social and economic outcomes, as well as environmental. Some benefits will be place-based while others will be diffuse and not place specific; some may transcend jurisdictional and geographical boundaries, such as when mitigating climate change. As such, source-to-sea approaches can help us maximise positive impact from our investments and efforts, with benefits that span health, well-being, food security, climate resilience and more.
- Moving beyond piecemeal interventions from fragmented governance systems is challenging and may even seem radical, but is necessary to address the systemic problems effectively and efficiently. Enabling actions include (a) the merging and coordination of data sets, models and evidence tools, (b) embracing communication and engagement methods that make best use of creativity, and insights from psychology and sociology, and (c) unlocking the opportunities for upstream-downstream flows in green investment and nature-based solutions. However, behind these and other enablers lies one common need: to encourage collaboration and coordination between sectors, between disciplines and between actors along the full extent of the source-to-sea continuum.
- Recommendations for progress in the adoption and implementation of source-to-sea approaches are made, for NatureScot and for Scotland generally, but have broader geographic relevance. Some suggestions fall within the remit of regulation and policy-led interventions, while others call for enhanced communication, diverse partnerships, and for advances in science and data coordination to help prioritise our efforts and inform decision-making. These recommendations (section 9.5 and 9.6 of full report) are many and varied, including:
- Identifying timely opportunities to influence emerging government strategies and plans (Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, national and regional marine plans, and post-EU-exit agricultural reforms).
- Proper integration of terrestrial and marine governance systems, such as the dovetailing of processes for marine plans and local development plans, should go from ‘nice to do’ to ‘must do’. Similarly, land management strategies (farming, forestry and upland) need to be integrated.
- Evidence and data priorities, including; connecting existing datasets, enhancing spatial and temporal resolution of data, and incorporating pressures originating on land when evaluating marine cumulative effects. Recognising and enabling the important role of social science can help unlock multiple benefits across these socio-ecological systems.
The authors would like to thank NatureScot for hosting and funding the internship, and SEPA and the University of Stirling as the employers of the rest of the core team in this partnership. Participants in workshops and many valuable conversations are far too many to name, from within NatureScot and from a wide variety of public, academic and third sector organisations. Similarly, we are grateful to those actively contributed to delivering our workshops, as speakers, facilitators and scribes (detailed in the annexed workshop reports). Artist Jenny Capon provided the excellent graphic recording of our final workshop.
Nature and climate continue to exhibit negative trends or a degraded status due to anthropogenic actions, threatening tipping points from which it will be hard or impossible to recover. We cannot solve the climate crisis without also solving the nature emergency, and vice versa. Our progress with both is hindered by fragmented policy and management systems that adopt convenient environmental boundaries between land, freshwater, coastal and marine systems. These systems are inherently connected, most notably via biophysical flows through soils and the water environment, yet we have limited interaction between processes, sectors and organisations working within these silos. The consequences of source-to-sea flows can manifest at local, catchment and regional seas scales, but also contribute to planetary-scale processes such as the carbon and nitrogen cycles. To address the climate-nature crisis we must mobilise and utilise collaboration and communication between biophysical systems and sectors, moving towards a more holistic approach for land to sea management. Figure 1 illustrates the need for source-to-sea approaches in addressing the broken circularity of biophysical processes of planet Earth. For instance, burning fossil fuels and large-scale land-use change are at the heart of our broken carbon cycle. This is further exacerbated by a lack of nutrient circularity within the system leading to less biodiverse, simpler, more degraded and compacted soils heightening vulnerability to climate change. Source-to-sea approaches are essential to tackling this land-based dimension, which represents a substantial portion of Scotland’s net emissions. The National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory shows that land based emissions comprised 48% of Scotland’s total net emissions in 2021 (NAES, 2023).
Connections across the land – freshwater – coastal - marine systems are central to the source-to-sea approach, which fosters the understanding that altering an area of the environment can have an effect elsewhere (Mathews et al., 2019). Positive and negative impacts could, and often do, alter water quantity, quality, temperature and chemical properties. There are social, environmental and economic risks associated with using a siloed and fragmented approach to address the nature-climate crisis, including missed opportunities to help people and nature adapt and be resilient to extreme climate events that are already locked in. In the UK there has been a general net loss of nature since the 1970 baseline; in Scotland, 49% of species have decreased in abundance and 11% of species are threatened (Walton et al., 2019). We have several government strategies that mention land to sea connections but limited implementation or co-ordinated holistic action on large scales at present.
The global climate-nature emergency is prompting increasing ambition and investment in the blue economy (Scottish Government, 2022a), biodiversity (Scottish Government, 2023a) and nature finance (Scottish Government, 2022b), all of which span terrestrial-marine environments. A holistic, source-to-sea approach ensures that we consider upstream and downstream impacts so that our actions and investments work in harmony to achieve common climate and nature goals, and do not have negative impacts elsewhere in the system that will require additional resources to fix. Source-to-sea management enables us to realise and nurture synergies and efficiencies between departments, organisations and actions to produce system wide benefits for society, the economy and the environment. A holistic approach can align policy objectives whilst enabling better policy implementation.
2.1 Workshops and dialogue
Two workshops provided key opportunities to share and gather insights across a diverse group of policy contacts, researchers and practitioners from terrestrial, freshwater and marine disciplines. Details of these workshops, including full reports, are detailed in Annex 2 and Annex 3. The second workshop included graphic recording by an artist to produce a visual note of key messages (see Figures 6 and 7) and are available for separate download.
These events and the dialogue they generated were supplemented by a literature review and by numerous other conversations throughout the project, with relevant experts and organisations across the public, private and charitable sectors.
2.2 Mapping policy drivers
A map of strategic policy drivers was created to show the main terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine policy drivers, to highlight cross-cutting strategies that aim to foster land to sea connections, and to direct some of our targeting of policy contacts for dialogue and workshop attendance. This exercise is not exhaustive but includes key and overarching policy drivers in Scotland across the land to sea interface (Figure 2).
3.1 Global context of source-to-sea engagement
The source-to-sea approach is growing globally, fostering connectivity, communication and collaboration between upstream and downstream actors, and across sectors. The Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management plays an integral role in bringing together organisations committed to more holistic environmental management, currently spanning forty organisations over six continents. The source-to-sea approach is gaining international traction; the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have created a Source to Sea Pollution Unit and set related ambitions in their 2022-25 Strategy (UNEP, 2022); and the UNECE Global Workshop on Source-to-Sea Management (UNECE, 2022) held in Geneva in 2022 brought together interested practitioners from numerous countries and several continents. Source-to-sea also formed part of Interactive Dialogue 3 on Water for Climate, Resilience and Environment (United Nations, 2023) at the UN Water Conference 2023.
In 2015, all UN member states adopted the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, centred around 17 sustainable development goals (Figure 3). Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF) serves to localise the global SDGs. In the UKs Voluntary National Review 2019 (UK Government, 2019), the importance of interlinkages between the SDGs and sectors highlights the central role collaboration plays in achieving national and international goals.
The ‘SDG Network Scotland’ supported a national review to drive action (Scottish Government, 2020a) on the SDGs. It emphasised the importance of partnership and collaboration for achieving national outcomes, and it was recognised that there is more that can, and needs to be done, to work across boundaries for positive change. One of the fundamental challenges highlighted is the need for more "intensive, multi-partner cooperation across all aspects of delivery” (Scottish Government, 2020a). Similar conclusions were also made through the Christie Commission review of public services in Scotland (Christie Commission, 2011) but the implementation of the recommendations remain incomplete. A source-to-sea approach is a promising means of helping to meet this challenge, working across social, environmental, and economic issues. Water is central to achieving all SDGs, without which the health of our society, environment and economy would all decline. Ultimately, plans to achieve SDG targets could be undermined if we do not consider upstream-downstream processes.
- This approach is most immediately relevant to targets across SDGs 6 and 14 (‘Clean Water and Sanitation’, and ‘Life Below Water’). For example:
- By taking a source-to-sea approach we can increase water security and access by upstream and downstream actors collaborating to achieve sustainable storage and flow of water.
- Collaborations with planners (terrestrial-coastal-marine) and landowners can minimise pollution flows and improve soil functions (e.g. reducing soil compaction) that influence water quality and flow while also providing benefits for biodiversity and building resilience against climate change. There are many opportunities for nature-based solutions; these can be identified in piecemeal fashion but would be most effectively progressed by more fundamentally embedding the economy in outcomes for nature (e.g. Dasgupta, (2021).
However, the benefits of a holistic source-to-sea approach can span much further, synergistically and simultaneously working across multiple SDGs (see Figure 3). A more holistic approach builds capacity for sustainable, environmentally and ecologically productive food systems (SDG2) while also addressing the land to sea flow of chemicals and excess nutrients, minimising the contamination of water and soils to ensure that we have an environment that can promote good health and wellbeing, and access to green and blue spaces (SDG3). This approach is designed to facilitate increased circularity of resources (i.e. nutrients, materials) to improve the sustainability of consumption and production and minimise environmental pollution and degradation. Through collaborative action, supply and demand can be built across all levels to reduce, recycle and reuse resources (SDG12).
A source-to-sea approach should improve the sustainability of developments across urban and rural environments through creating efficiencies in the planning process that enable a more climate resilient environment to grow and evolve. Blending place-based and source-to-sea approaches can support communities and protect the cultural and natural heritage within them (SDG11). Water is intrinsically linked to life on land and sustainable water management is essential to maintaining and restoring diverse and resilient systems on land, and nature-based solutions on land have enormous potential to help manage downstream pressures and effects (SDG 15). Strengthening resilience to address the climate-nature crises is a cross-cutting challenge that requires inclusive and collaborative action from land to sea, at national, regional and local levels (SDG 13).
Many source-to-sea benefits can also help address SDGs 1 (‘No Poverty’), 8 (‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’), and 9 (‘Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure’), e.g. creating green economic growth and jobs for different skillsets, facilitating skills sharing and development, developing innovation and technologically advanced tools and models, and through creating more sustainable urban and rural environments that benefit different communities and cultures. Opportunities to achieve sustainable development outcomes across the source-to-sea continuum have previously been evaluated for the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (Berggren and Liss Lymer, 2016), and recently discussed on international panels at the UN Water Conference (IUCN, 2023a).
At the Convention for Biodiversity 15th Conference of Parties (CBD COP15), the UK adopted the Global Biodiversity Framework, committing to conserve and sustainably manage at least 30% of the world’s lands, inland waters, coastal areas and the ocean, and restoring 30% of each of these degraded environments. Other targets relate to reducing flows of nutrients, hazardous chemicals, invasive species and reductions in food consumption and waste (JNCC, 2022). The strength of a more holistic approach is the ability to maximise benefits from time and financial investments, by recognising where action against one target will also support delivery of another target.
Despite source-to-sea approaches having benefits across the land to sea interface, benefits (and the cost of achieving them) are not always shared equally. For instance, actions to curb the majority of pollution and contamination in the marine environment needs to originate on land (e.g. nutrient influxes, bacterial loads, and litter), raising challenges in environmental justice, accountability, jurisdiction and the distribution of wealth and power. At a national scale we must overcome the barriers to inter-departmental coordination, but such challenges are particularly pronounced when source-to-sea flows cross international boundaries, highlighting environmental justice issues described by Gupta et al. (2023) and Rockström et al. (2023).
3.2 Guidance and principles
The secretariat for the Action Platform for Source-to-Sea Management is hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), with a source-to-sea department that have produced valuable resources for source-to-sea action and management, including a ‘Guide for Practitioners’ (Mathews et al., 2019).
SIWI’s six-step guide to implementing a source-to-sea approach (Figure 4), and Principles (Figure 5) can be adapted to suit the scale and location of the project. For example, shorter term pilot projects demonstrating local and regional use in Vu Gia-Thu Bon River Basin, Hoi An (Mathews and Groeneweg-Thakar, 2020) and Lake Hawassa, Ethiopia (Weinberg et al., 2020), incorporated source-to-sea thinking in national governance. In 2011, Sweden created the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM), responsible for managing the sustainable use of Sweden’s marine and freshwater environments. SwAM’s remit is inclusive of watercourses, lakes, seas and fishing resources; they actively aim to work from source-to-sea, employing a holistic ecosystem-based approach to ensure management tools work together to achieve common goals from land to sea (SwAM, 2020). This is one example of structural change to improve implementation of holistic water management at a governance level.
3.3 Scottish policy drivers
The policy-mapping exercise included a high-level review of the extent to which strategic Scottish policies and strategies are, or whether/how they could be, promoting and delivering source-to-sea approaches. Policy drivers spanned government plans, strategies, published visions and some legislation. This was not an exhaustive exercise and reflects just one of many possible ways of grouping and characterising policy drivers. Figure 2 provides a visual depiction of those deemed to be cross-cutting and indicative of existing intent for connected governance approaches from land to sea.
Despite numerous existing policies, plans and strategies demonstrating good intentions for source-to-sea approaches, it is readily concluded that implementation is the exception rather than the rule. Some policy drivers give a very clear direction for integrated approaches (e.g. Scotland’s 3rd Land-Use Strategy); others are more subtle in their ambitions, but nevertheless provide an entry point for more ambitious and coherent governance across environmental systems.
In almost all cases we identify actions that can clarify or strengthen policy intent and facilitate better or more consistent implementation. The clearest ambitions, and most of the best examples of successful implementation, arise where pressing issues are so obviously entwined in a biophysical source-to-sea flow as to be unavoidable in the search for solutions. For example, coastal bathing water quality is inseparable from land and urban-sourced inputs and their management, and the well-known migratory life-cycle of wild salmon makes them excellent exemplars for source-to-sea species conservation. This is not to say that even these issues have fully and consistently accomplished source-to-sea management approaches, such are the institutional and professional challenges of working across multiple departments, sectors and disciplines. The review of policy drivers and recommendations is available in Annex 1.
3.4 Solutions, challenges and enablers in implementing source-to-sea approaches
Identifying solutions, challenges and enablers will help us make progress in leveraging a source-to-sea approach to aid delivery of Net Zero, Biodiversity and Just Transition targets (among others), allowing us to maximise benefits from our actions and investments (public and private). There are many types of solutions and enablers to source-to-sea action.
This section details key messages emerging from workshops and other dialogue. A graphic recorder created images during the second workshop, to highlight key messages and enablers (Figures 6 and 7); these images are available for separate download.
Solutions are broadly placed in several categories; nature-based solutions, technical, regulatory, behavioural, and circularity, although there is much overlap between these themes. Solutions can act independently but synergies can be found when different solutions are brought together.
Nature based solutions
- Ecological complexity supports carbon and nutrient cycling processes on land and in coastal and marine environments, as well as overall ecosystem resilience to challenges. Targeted restoration and recovery of species and habitats supports this, but can also be supported through multi-trophic food production systems that, for example, minimise and make use of nutrient and organic waste. Pilot studies could usefully evidence the benefits and profitability of multi-trophic and regenerative agriculture and aquaculture.
- Source-to-sea flows from our food systems should be a fundamental environmental management issue, for example minimising fertiliser inputs and targeting downstream solutions (e.g. habitat restoration or seaweed/shellfish production) where residual impacts remain. Seaweed cultivation may be particularly appealing for bioremediation of nutrients and other waste, due to diverse potential uses, as food, fertiliser and other products. However, upstream and downstream conditions have to work in harmony for system-wide outcomes.
- Protecting and restoring marine, coastal and lowland habitats, such as biogenic reefs, seagrass, saltmarsh and wetlands, can provide multiple benefits such as coastal defence, flood management, nutrient and contaminant uptake, and (blue) carbon storage.
- Urban surface water management that incorporates blue and green spaces, such as community allotments, riparian habitat buffers, green roofs, Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), contaminant traps and other semi-natural and green infrastructure solutions, may be primarily designed for flood and waste management, but can also provide habitats, nature networks and wellbeing benefits.
- Land-use and management should avoid undermining, and ideally support, marine restoration and recovery efforts (e.g. avoiding or minimising excess nutrient discharge that seagrass beds are sensitive to (Boesch, 2002; Burkholder et al., 2007).
- Moving from static inventories of blue and green carbon, to monitoring of blue carbon sequestration, transport and storage characteristics across connected environments, could lead to further investment in nature restoration and catchment processes.
- Connecting existing but separate marine, freshwater and terrestrial datasets would stimulate collaboration and scientific advances in necessary areas. Many flows from land to sea are natural (carbon, nutrients, water) but connected datasets combined with recent advances in modelling can identify harmful flow imbalances. Modelling and analytical data should be available outwith academia, to guide nutrient budgeting and other aspects of land management.
- Technical innovation and circular business design can tackle some problems at the source, e.g. washing machines capturing micro-fibres. However, waste is ideally (a) minimised, and (b) viewed a resource for re-use and even traded between businesses.
- Best use could be made of information technology, with an accessible database of example solutions, including additional benefits, implementation procedures, costs and timescales.
- Use scientific techniques to target efforts that can increase water quality, e.g. eDNA to track disease, sources of microbial contamination and invasive non-native species.
- Modern low-impact technical agriculture solutions (e.g. no-till; cover crops; intercropping; data-enabled chemical inputs), prioritising investment to regions and catchments with greatest risks to downstream environments.
- Target and minimise pesticide use through developing a better understanding of pests and diseases.
- Retro-fit water systems in houses and businesses to use grey water (capturing first flush) for toilet systems and implement slow trickle drains. Standardise these systems within building regulations for new builds.
- Digitising and real-time data for adaptive management (e.g. digital twins and Internet-of-things technology), LiDAR coverage for freshwater, coastal and marine environments may be able to help with this e.g.:
- To help farmers improve resource efficiency, including water.
- For heightened responses to combined sewage overflows, knowing where and when the problems exist.
- Monitoring environmental signals that can help predict and manage low-flow events.
- Modernising septic tanks and water treatment facilities.
- Regulate for circular economy outcomes through business plans, such as for wastewater treatment facilities transitioning to view nutrients as a resource rather than waste. For example, chemical fertilisers could be regulated to contain a minimum percentage of recycled nitrogen, as adopted by Denmark. A ‘polluter pays’ principle could incentivise producers to avoid unnecessary fertiliser applications and to use techniques that minimise loss to the water environment. Financial incentives for nutrient recovery could also be built into this.
- Target 7 of COP15 (“Reduce pollution risks and the negative impact of pollution from all sources, by2030…”) was not agreed upon by the UN delegation, but there remains an opportunity for Scotland to take the ambition forward. For instance, we could elevate our ambitions to address nitrogen waste and nitrogen flows from agriculture, including rules on green cover-cropping.
- Management requirements for anaerobic digestion, including but not limited to methane.
- Build accountability for terrestrial and upstream actors affecting the condition of downstream and marine environments, through planning mechanisms, polluter pays schemes or environmental liability regulations.
- Ensure that River Basin Management Planning (RBMP) and Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) give adequate granularity to their considerations. For example, small water bodies are often overlooked in broadscale monitoring and reporting, and therefore in regulatory and specific management activities. Small water bodies are important for biodiversity recovery, local flood defences and water retention.
- Emerging policies and regulations for agricultural, agri-environment schemes and biodiversity present great opportunities to raise and regulate standards for efficient water use and storage.
Behavioural change solutions
- Education could better represent nature-based solutions, driving behavioural change and a legacy of impact in future generations. Education is not just for school, and should also be filtered through businesses, work places and communities to ensure a multi-generational drive and commitment to nature. Examples of areas on which public knowledge is perceived to be low are: that dry SUDS are designed to flood; natural flood management; sustainable water use; sources of carbon and nutrient imbalances; and the day-to-day human choices with consequences across the land to sea continuum (beyond litter and plastic).
- Co-development of relevant solutions with communities and stakeholders can help to shift understanding and attitudes that can ease the pathway for new regulation or policy. Place-based approaches that recognise the different challenges locations face will be beneficial and help us to look at catchments as (a) food production units from source-to-sea, (b) habitats that some animals must be able to move through, and (c) underpinning the flow of water, with an appreciation of where and how it must be managed.
- Shifting behaviour across levels (consumers, retailers and suppliers) around packaging is necessary, to reduce sources and to make best use of unavoidable waste as a resource, thus minimising waste in the environment and the risk of downstream pollution. People need help to better understand what can be recycled and how. Increased collaboration between producers, environmental charities and education can facilitate this.
- Linking consumption and waste patterns (generally, not just plastic) with ecosystem resilience to provide a better societal appreciation of the need for behaviour change (i.e. better communicate outcomes of IPBES work on indirect drivers of biodiversity loss).
- Labelling/standards/accreditation schemes could also reflect source to sea outcomes i.e. incorporating nature-based solutions and whole system benefits into food systems and land use management. For consumer awareness, labelling schemes should be bolstered by communication (not marketing) campaigns.
- Move away from short term fixes and communicate the long-term scale of economic and social investments. Public and private investments should be based on building resilience instead of reactive spending.
- Price is often a strong mechanism for changing behaviour. Mandatory charges on certain goods, e.g. disposable coffee cups, can be effective quickly, but can also enable the formation of better long-term habits.
- Showcase businesses that are doing well; good practice should be rewarded.
- Help consumers align product quality with environmental sustainability and health outcomes, helping shift consumers demands to ‘less but better’ (e.g. more sustainable meat and fish options). This will help to drive the supply / demand cycle for more sustainable, regenerative and connected farming from land to sea.
- Allotments and local food cooperatives can improve understanding around seasonal production and connect people with the food they eat, but also present opportunities to engage people in a broader (source-to-sea) understanding of food system impacts.
- Focus on transitioning from ‘waste to ‘resource’, particularly regarding the reuse and recycling of excess nutrients. Many examples of circularity are embedded within solutions under other categories above.
- Consistent segregation of waste/ by-products, encouraging public confidence that recycling is actually happening (countering media reports of poor implementation in recycling centres).
- Local recycling of fishing nets and gear, connected to nascent business opportunities for their re-use/recycling, linking to a behaviour change that encourages fishers to donate spent/damaged nets.
- Provide guidance and advice for circular water management and effective water storage, recognising the need for tailored place-based solutions. For instance, irrigation pools in agriculture should help efficient water use through different seasons (also helping with nutrient management and other run-off issues, and/or flood or drought prevention elsewhere in the system).
- Reinvigorate producer responsibility in circular economy approaches. This will require increased collaboration and cooperation between businesses, innovators and investors to move waste up the value chain. It is important to create and incentivise markets for unavoidable waste.
A key challenge to overcome is ensuring opportunity for coordination and collaboration between different departments, divisions and specialisms of environmental policy, management, regulation, and conservation practice. The need to structure work and organisations into manageable and definable chunks has led to teams and work plans focussed on agriculture, or on forestry, upland management, coastal habitats or issues that are specific to the marine space. With the exception of a few specific topics (e.g. salmon conservation) that can unlock dialogue across these areas, all too often the inherent connectivity of these environments is overlooked.
There are risks that issues fall between the cracks of different management and regulatory systems, such that an action or inaction in one part of the system undermines policy or action in another part of the system. There are also missed opportunities to work together, to gain efficiencies and synergies in outcomes and spending, in both preventative measures and the growing sphere of nature restoration. Of course, there is also the likelihood that some of the benefits of positive interventions go unmonitored or unrecognised, by purely focussing on the immediate environment around an action. It may also be possibly to optimise interventions and achieve greater funding and public support if the full upstream-downstream spectrum of benefits is recognised.
Many of the additional challenge areas below, identified through workshops and dialogue, have roots in the silos of administrative structure and institutional culture that have formed around us.
- The earth, freshwater and marine sciences, natural and social, often do not communicate effectively, generally working in different units, addressing different questions using different language.
- Efficient communication of research and policies needs to be extended to communities, business sectors and others to ensure inclusivity, understanding and implementation, and to enable cross-sector and cross-discipline collaboration.
- Many of the issues are out-of-sight to most people, or otherwise too intangible (unlike large pieces of litter) for it to be intuitively obvious how distant actions and choices (on land, in homes, at work, and more) are manifesting in a geographically separate impact. Great communication and engagement techniques can overcome these hurdles; insights from the psychology and sociology of influencing people can help.
Regulation and incentives
- Recognition of connectivity between upstream-downstream environments mainly exists at a strategic level and needs to be better implemented. The scope for efficiencies, multiple benefits and positive long-term outcomes ought to attract voluntary action, but to build momentum and accelerate toward these outcomes may require some initial incentives and regulations. However, these can be time and resource intensive to establish, so targeted effort is needed. This may be helped by identifying issues for which cross-departmental strategies, policies, stakeholders, and communities can be most easily aligned with common goals.
- The impacts of excess nutrients, contaminants and microbial activity in wastewater flows and land run-offs are likely to be temporally and spatially variable. Blanket regulatory instruments may therefore not be appropriate, requiring a more nuanced, data-led and real-time approaches for a proportionate solution.
- The approach to designation of shellfish protected areas may limit the opportunities for the aquaculture industry to expand. The relatively blunt tool limits capacity to identify the type and source of contamination, and therefore the associated risk. Consequently, the opportunities to address problems at source are limited, but also the opportunity to identify potential production sites in areas of lower water quality. This includes the potential for shellfish production for purposes other than human food production, which may allow for the sustainable expansion of the sector while harnessing the ecosystem services of bivalve filtration feeding to improve local water quality.
- Markets for nature-based solutions (e.g. carbon and nutrient trading) have huge potential to help plug the funding gap for nature restoration and associated carbon sequestration, among other benefits. However, to ensure consistency, fairness and to guard against ‘greenwashing’ these need to become regulated, and with simple enough structures and processes to be governed from outside financial institutions. A source-to-sea approach to green investment will mean unlocking the opportunities for upstream-downstream flows of investment that reflect the relationship between those taking action and those benefitting from or impacted by that action.
- It may be questioned whether the principle of ‘polluter pays’ for remediation of impacts has been lost or marginalised, and whether it can be given a stronger foundation in legislation and associated monitoring and enforcement.
- The short to medium term business costs of inaction may compare favourably to the costs of action to address the climate-nature crisis. In these situations, (a) what action needs to be forced by regulation, and (b) how can we best incentivise investment for long-term outcomes?
- SUDS (sustainable urban drainage systems) guidance is available but poorly or inconsistently applied or regulated, with poor recognition of their multiple benefits when done well.
Research, innovation and data (technical and academic)
- Better understanding is needed of the fate of carbon when transported from land to sea (whether it is lost to the atmosphere or stored in marine sediments; for the latter, understanding vulnerability and sensitivity to re-release is also important).
- Impacts on human health and well-being are hard to directly associate with environmental variables, particularly when trying to showcase positive health benefits of access to nature-rich water environments.
- Distribution of microplastics and related toxins in fauna and humans and understanding population-level (rather than individual) effects, are not yet well understood.
- Effects on food-webs are complex, and consequences for specific species and habitats are not always predictable. There is a risk that the science gets stuck trying to resolve points of detail rather than concentrating on cruder (but reliable) indicators of ecosystem health. Related to this are fundamental challenges about the burden of evidence required to trigger regulatory interventions.
- Car tyres degrading and the breakdown of larger plastics into microplastics were identified as challenges of note, but limited scientific detail.
- Innovation is expensive and requires investment. For example, high fertiliser costs should drive innovation for more cost-effective and low-impact seed treatments.
- Terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine data sets and system models are often as fragmented as the governance processes. Bringing datasets and models from these different environments together, with functionality to analyse biophysical flows and related impacts via the water environment, is an important challenge for developing a useful evidence base and decision-support tool.
- Including and accelerating the delivery of quality-assured private sector and academic data into publicly accessible repositories, to support responsive and adaptive management. The costs of data management and any concerns about data sensitivity and confidentiality will need to be addressed.
3.4.3 Enabling actions
Primary enablers to implement a source-to-sea approach, emerged from workshop discussions under the following themes: advancing data, evidence and shared knowledge; behavioural change; skills and ways of working; natural capital approaches; stimulating investment; and enhancing cooperation and collaboration. The graphic recorder also developed imagery that focusses on enablers (Figure 7).
Advances in data, evidence and shared knowledge
In relative terms, the general health of Scotland’s water environment is often good, but there remain opportunities to do better and there are risks to address, to improve economic, health, social and ecological conditions associated with rivers, lochs, estuaries and seas. Existing scientific reporting can identify some pressures on the source-to-sea system that create imbalances in natural biophysical flows and introduce other unnatural and harmful flows. However, (a) standard national and regional surveillance designed for broadscale reporting may be of insufficient spatial and temporal resolution to identify local or temporary issues, or to inform the detail of a management intervention, and (b) we are limited by the fragmentation of data and modelling systems across different environmental units across the land to sea continuum. Better understanding and addressing these two key limitations would enable a step-change in source-to-sea approaches. These may be further enabled by development of new indicators, for environmental receptors but also for signalling effects on local communities and businesses.
Better connection and coordination of science across the UK and globally would be beneficial, for collaborative approaches and the avoidance of duplicated effort. Open access tools, models and datasets, and consistent methods, to assess flows across the land – sea interface are important as decision-support tools and for proof-of-concept to unlock policy and regulatory progress. Through this project, it was discovered that institutions in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland all had common scientific goals but were working in isolation of one another. The time is right to convene scientific minds across borders, in collaboration with policy contacts and policy influencers, to give direction to the supporting science and to ensure efficiency and timely process through coordinated and well-known programmes of work. Scientific tools may well need to adapt to suit the conditions and data availability in different national and regional contexts, but ideally would occur within a common framework.
We cannot address every issue at once, so some prioritisation is necessary, finding the right balance between the ease, cost and impact of available solutions. Imperfect knowledge should not be allowed to hamper informed progress, but we should also identify where better knowledge is most important and achievable, so that we can instigate an iterative cycle of improving governance.
Behaviour change is identified above as a solution in its own right, but is also an enabler of broader change. It should be sought at every level (individuals-communities-businesses-institutions) to achieve a holistic approach to environmental management and to fully address the climate-nature crisis. A mix of sociology, psychology, communication and education are required. Behaviour change is the outcome of a longer process of behavioural change; this is the journey from knowledge to action; it does not exist in isolation, but interacts with and catalyses related changes in politics, economics and business. Behavioural science recognises different levers (e.g. Leakey, 2022): Motivating individuals can be done through education and knowledge, experience and emotional triggers (first hand experiences or through engaging literature, arts and visuals), or a financial incentive or disincentive. However, to achieve lasting motivation and change many other enabling conditions are necessary, and social influence can play a large role here. People are often influenced by those around them, and we need visibility of positive change to reach a tipping point that triggers shifts in social norms and larger scale societal change. Some hurdles may remain though, so we must also recognise where regulation, financial support, technology and access can help ease the change.
Ocean literacy is a concept well aligned with that of behavioural change, with a dedicated outcome in Scotland’s Blue Economy Vision (Scottish Government, 2022a), but will require multi-sector action to deliver. Increasing ocean literacy is key to society’s understanding of the impacts our actions can have on downstream environments. However, ocean literacy is about much more than knowledge and understanding, extending to shifts in public attitudes and actual actions and choices in daily life (see McKinley et al., 2023). The accumulation of these changes has its own impact, but also influences the ‘social license’ and consumer demands to which governments and businesses respond, respectively. Initial progress in this can help move us through the ‘source-to-sea management readiness levels’ described in practitioners guidance (Mathews et al., 2019) (Figure 8). Mixed levels of ocean literacy in Scotland (BMG Research, 2022) highlights the need for continued efforts to educate, communicate and influence people about the impacts of upstream activities on downstream environments, and potential solutions.
Education and knowledge can be gained from schools, colleges, universities, environmental campaigns, the news, media, participatory engagement of communities, and more. Multi-tiered learning will have the most effective outcomes i.e. children and adults engaging with the same topic. Environmental charities are the most active advocates in this space. For example:
- Keep Scotland Beautiful’s ‘Upstream Battle’ Campaign took a source-to-sea approach to the most tangible of negative land to sea flows: marine litter. They sought to avoid the common issue of focussing on symptoms in coastal/marine environments, instead looking upstream to the source of litter for the Tay and Clyde catchments (Keep Scotland Beautiful, 2023).
- Surfers Against Sewage have raised awareness of large volumes of contaminated effluent, often from sewage or agricultural and urban run-off, entering the UKs rivers, estuaries and marine waters. Campaigns and tools, such as the ‘Safer Sea and Rivers Service’ (Surfers Against Sewage, 2023), have highlighted the harmful effects of poor water quality to society and the extent of the challenge.
- The Marine Conservation Society also sought to influence policy across the land-sea interface, in particular targeting the flow of chemicals (‘Stop Ocean Poison’) and the transport of micro-fibres (‘Stop Ocean Threads’).
- Fidra have developed campaigns on source-to-sea issues as diverse as ‘Sewage Free Soils’, nurdles, artificial grass, salmon farming and various chemical contaminants.
These charities provide educational resources, communicate issues and solutions effectively and influence behavioural change by moving people through the steps from knowledge to action (Figure 9). Education, communication, and access are valuable mechanisms that third sector organisations and some academic outreach use to stimulate behavioural change, that could be better adopted more widely or to target other issues. Working with relevant local interest groups, such as surfers, wild swimmers and kayakers, can be a powerful way of building community support and amplifying source-to-sea messages. Identifying opportunities for these groups to engage meaningfully with policy development or specific decisions are valuable, for voices to be heard and management processes understood.
Behavioural responses can also be shifted through collaborative story-telling and the arts and can be done in ways that ensure underpinning scientific integrity is not lost. This may be through books, art, social media, or films. Increased collaboration between artists and academia, government, private and public bodies, provides an accessible method of communication that can reach new audiences in new ways, making it an incredibly useful tool for social change. Whether through the arts or other routes, funding for inclusive communication and engagement activities could be included more regularly in association with different projects, particularly in the public and academic sectors. A source-to-sea ‘story’ to our environmental challenges and solutions has the potential to reach a greater variety of people than campaigns on a single-issue or narrow geography, also supporting a greater appreciation of complex realities that are often overlooked.
Skills and ways of working
To transition to a more holistic approach, we must assess the skills and workforce resources required to deliver the strategic aims of cross-cutting policies and strategies. Many useful skills for source-to-sea implementation may be practical, technical or academic, and it would be useful to identify and prioritise skills development and workforce plans in these areas.
However, ‘softer skills’ are also required to generate an institutional and collaborative culture across organisations, to support the paradigm shift to less fragmented ways of working. People have a tendency to be comfortable in specific knowledge ranges and departmental and disciplinary silos. Moving beyond this requires a change in attitude at all levels and across all sectors, not just in our personal lives but in our work. The time and resources to come together to discuss and resolve cross-cutting issues is often not built into the current work systems. Source-to-sea thinking is just one possible vehicle of such change, but which seems to have a compelling and inspiring narrative that can stimulate a change in mind-set. Even in the workplace, creativity and an openness to new ideas can engage and inspire people to strive for a better future.
Natural Capital approaches
Natural capital research, data and tools are more advanced for terrestrial than marine assets, presenting an obstacle to realising, and sustaining, the full potential and value of our ecosystem services. A majority of current models are focussed on siloed environments and are therefore unable to account for the source-to-sea benefits of actions in any one part of the system. The current Natural Capital Asset Index (NCAI) for Scotland (NatureScot, 2022a) is a useful tool for tracking broadscale changes in the capacity of Scotland’s terrestrial natural assets, to provide benefits to people. This index includes freshwater environments and some coastal habitats, but not marine environments. A feasibility study for building a marine natural capital asset index for Scotland (Tillin et al., 2019) found that while a NCAI for the marine environment is technically feasible there are challenges to making progress. Key issues include differences in the spatial and temporal resolution of terrestrial, coastal and marine data, resulting in disjointed datasets that do not easily communicate with one another. In the longer term, greater coherence and compatibility between terrestrial, freshwater and marine data sets may make a single connected NCAI possible; as data improves it may also be possible to have regional-scale indexes that are more useful for informing management. Regional indexes and mapping tools would likely be better suited to displaying land to sea connectivity and would enable an influence on regional policy and management processes.
In the meantime, collaboration within and between organisations across the land – sea interface (public bodies, research, communities), could develop models of biophysical flows that can connect separate terrestrial and marine indices, accounts and maps of natural capital. This should aim to allow interrogation of how different flow scenarios and interventions would affect upstream/downstream assets of nature and the benefits they provide to people.
NatureScot, in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University, are developing a Landscape Natural Capital Decision Support Tool that will be a user-friendly, non-technical web app designed for organisations, landowners, and other environmental practitioners to evaluate how best to use their land. Building on scientific knowledge and an adapted version of the EcoservR model, it will encompass environmental and social pressures and demands so that the user can make place-based decisions. This tool will enable practitioners to realise the best use of their land for maximum environmental benefits. There is the potential to expand the remit of this tool in further development phases to include coastal environments and habitats; such an adoption of source-to-sea principles could be transformative for managing upstream-downstream pressures within different catchments.
The benefits to human health, both physical and mental, of access to quality ‘blue space’ is increasingly accepted (e.g. World Health Organisation, 2021; BMG Research, 2022), but hard to measure and therefore difficult to use as a lever for positive change. Upstream blue spaces, such as rivers and canals have also been found to have positive health effects (McDougall et al., 2022). Wellbeing effects are also likely to be influenced by access, culture and location, so there are geographic drivers to variable benefits and place-based influences. Pan-European research initiatives, such as Blue Health, are trying to identify links between urban blue spaces, climate and health to inform the design, planning and management of water environments (University of Exeter Medical School, 2020). Research associated with this project has developed a framework for evaluating the development of urban bathing water initiatives (Wuijts et al., 2022) to help link governance conditions to the development of attractive urban bathing water sites. Often poorer communities have more restricted access to desirable blue/green spaces, creating a social justice issue that compounds other drivers of health inequalities. Greater awareness of opportunities to delivery source-to-sea synergies between environmental and wellbeing outcomes should help to prioritise actions and investment.
Stimulating investment in nature and sustainability
A branch of natural capital thinking relates to stimulating private investment in nature. The National Strategy for Economic Transformation (Scottish Government, 2022c) aims to establish a ‘values-led, high integrity market for responsible private investment in natural capital’. This has been followed by the Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital (Scottish Government., 2022b), to steer toward a holistic approach to natural capital investments. Key aspects cover:
- Actions to deliver benefits for the environment, society and the economy.
- Investments and uses of natural capital benefitting public, private and community interests.
- Encouraging engagement between investors and land managers with communities.
- Open collaboration between investors and land managers, landowners and public bodies.
- Working across existing Scottish Government policies and aligning with the Paris Agreement and UN principles for Responsible Investment.
- Encouraging collaborative partnerships rather than sole private land ownership.
Woodland (Woodland Carbon Code, 2019) and peatland (IUCN, 2023b) carbon codes are examples of current markets that will continue to adapt and change as science and knowledge progresses in this area. Scotland currently has over 80% of the habitat restoration potential under both codes in the UK, with interest and investment opportunities even where commitments are long term (around 40 years). Private funding is trying to build in some permanence to their investments (i.e. protecting restored habitats to ensure a lasting legacy from investment). A saltmarsh carbon code and others are also in development in the UK. Nutrient trading schemes are also in development in some countries, which are inherently designed around a source-to-sea flow. These schemes can be either government or business led, but are ideally public-private collaborations that stimulate responsible investment, represent sustainable economic activity and help deliver public benefits.
To ensure these principles promote and enable a robust source-to-sea approach that helps address the climate-nature crises and contributes to inclusive social and economic benefits:
- Be explicit in promoting actions with upstream-downstream benefits. Encouraging open communication, cooperation and collaboration between land managers, investors, landowners and public bodies throughout a catchment / across the land-sea interface can enable diverse natural capital benefits to be realised.
- Ensure that the principles for sustainably and ethically managing carbon resources can be applied to the management of other resources as markets develop, i.e. if nutrient trading comes to fruition, this will help future proof the principles.
Private organisations run a higher risk of ‘greenwashing’ (perceived or real) and being seen as ‘green lairds’. Companies therefore want to protect their reputation, and we all should be motivated to ensure responsible access to emerging carbon and biodiversity markets (and potential nutrient markets). Overall, there are huge opportunities but also risks in the emergence and growth of green finance mechanisms, but steps are being taken to develop codes, standards and regulations to manage the risks accordingly.
More broadly, the private sector has a vital role to play in the adoption of a source-to-sea approach: from the fundamentals of their supply chain and circular economy outcomes, to environmental impact mitigation, investment in their natural capital dependencies, corporate culture and how and why they engage with stakeholders, communities and places connected to or affected by their business. It is important to consider levers of change at all stages in the life cycle of a product or service, from sourcing materials, to manufacturing, retail, consumers, household technologies, and wastewater treatment. Affected stakeholder groups are also wide ranging, from anglers, to seafood consumers, water-based and coastal recreation, biodiversity and more. Supply and demand for increased sustainability investment and innovation from organisations, industry and the government is growing. The Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project is an interesting example of place-based investment in nature, as part of a more sustainable business model, and is detailed further in the case-examples section below.
Investment in nature is not just for the private sector though, and the Scottish Government have made a commitment and considerable investment of public funds to nature-based solutions, particularly for peatland restoration and woodland creation. Despite this, the funding gap for Scotland from 2021-2030 has been estimated at around £20bn (Green Finance Institute 2021). Public bodies do not have the capacity to finance all actions necessary to meet our environmental and societal targets, so collaboration with the private sector is key to unlocking funding for action. There are multiple funding schemes, some public-money and some a public-private blend, that aim to address the climate-nature crises:
- Nature Restoration Fund
- Marine Fund Scotland
- Scottish Marine Environmental Enhancement Fund
- Forestry grant scheme
- Peatland Action Fund
- Agri-Environment Climate Scheme
- Catchment restoration fund (in development)
- Green jobs fund
- Facility for Investment Ready Nature Scotland
The Nature Restoration Fund (NRF) acknowledges that transformational change is required across land, freshwater and seas by 2045 to meet the aims of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. Priority themes span across the source-to-sea continuum: habitat and species, freshwater, coastal and marine, invasive non-native species and urban. More deliberately encouraging applications / actions that work across the themes could facilitate a source-to-sea approach through the core of this fund, to help optimise benefits from investments.
The Facility for Investment Ready Nature Scotland (FIRNS) addresses barriers to scaling investment in nature. It aims to: value and monetise ecosystem services derived from the restoration of natural capital assets and generate social and economic benefits that align with the Just Transition principles. Applicants are encouraged to co-create projects that share benefits with community interests, encouraging collaboration, communication and benefits across different sectors. The scheme aligns with the Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital, aiming to grow markets across rural, urban and marine settings. By creating a focus on the connections between markets (urban, rural, marine) FIRNS could stimulate more holistic source-to-sea management.
Funds focussed on specific environments (e.g. forestry, or agri-environment) still have the potential to recognise the upstream-downstream impacts / benefits. It would be beneficial to have funding for agricultural environments that specifically recognises the ecosystem services provided by upstream-downstream connections and focusses on the synergies/impacts between upstream-downstream biodiversity and food systems, i.e. agriculture and shellfish.
Enhancing cooperation and collaboration
To create positive change, management approaches and common goals need to be shared between sectors and supported and understood by communities. Community-based advocacy and action, alongside NGOs and the private sector are capable of stimulating source-to-sea collaboration and implementation, but to reach a critical mass of coordinated action it is often desirable to also have the support from public bodies and government. In particular, environmental practitioners, central and local government can provide valuable support for changes to policy and practices that alleviate negative source-to-sea flows (Mathews et al., 2019). Public and academic funding mechanisms are encouraging cross sectoral collaboration and communication, so we should ensure that these remain core priorities. By motivating actors to work not only across sectors, but across environments (land-freshwater-coastal-marine) synergies can be realised and more perspectives, solutions and funding opportunities can emerge for effective action, including monitoring and enforcement mechanisms.
Public and charitable bodies don’t always have equivalent financial resources to (some) businesses but can come together in (sometimes large and diverse) partnerships to build ambition and unlock funding opportunities to deliver exciting projects. These efforts need not be explicitly tied to the delivery of existing policy and often help give shape and detail to emerging and future policy. A prominent and current example of particular relevance to source-to-sea outcomes is the Riverwoods project, led by Scottish Wildlife Trust with a diverse suite of public bodies and other partners; further details are provided as a case-example in the next section.
Projects such as Riverwoods present opportunities to demonstrate and communicate the connections and flows from land to sea to different audiences. Proof of concept projects will generate more funding for source-to-sea action which can act as a mechanism for delivery across policies and strategies. We must consider the role of Riverwoods in connecting habitats and nature networks for biodiversity, coordinating actions from land to the sea and vice versa. Planning (terrestrial and marine), land-use strategies and the partnerships that drive them, should all recognise the shared relevance of such projects, to also share coherent policies that help address the climate-nature crises through implementation that is place-based but deliberately connected to seemingly distant but relevant environments.
3.5 Case examples
3.5.1 Further UK examples of connected action
There are several projects that provide great examples of connected action across (part-of) the source-to-sea continuum. These projects are the exception rather than the rule, so greater support and encouragement needs to be provided for source-to-sea management. Public bodies, including government, have an important role in stimulating greater implementation of source-to-sea action, to help accelerate and sustain action to address the nature-climate crises.
Garrell Burn (Scotland) – Local to Catchment Scale
A collaboration between North Lanarkshire Council, SEPA and George Leslie engineering contractors set out with an aim to return salmon to the Garrell Burn for the first time in over 100 years. This involved the re-naturalisation of the Garrell Burn from a canalised channel to a re-meandering burn with improved wetland habitat surrounding it and the installation of fish ladders below weirs (North Lanarkshire Council, 2022).
Further collaboration with the Clyde River Foundation has provided monitoring in the catchment that has identified salmon fry further upstream in the river, highlighting successful measures have been taken. The project and collaborations have also improved wetland habitat, community engagement and public access to the river, developing benefits across biodiversity and the community (North Lanarkshire Council, 2022).
This project delivered on aims to improve the river habitat of the Garrell Burn from ‘poor’ to ‘good’ under Scotland’s River Basin Management Plan (SEPA, 2022) and is a great example of relatively small-scale changes that can provide significant source-to-sea benefits for biodiversity.
Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (DEEP)
DEEP is an example of a local multi-sector collaboration for nature within Scotland, delivered through a partnership between Glenmorangie, Heriot-Watt University and the Marine Conservation Society. Native oysters were once abundant in the Dornoch Firth until overfishing in the 19th century resulted in population collapse (Marine Conservation Society, 2023), inspiring a shared vision to restore a native oyster bed to enhance biodiversity, improve water quality downstream of the distillery’s discharge and increase carbon storage/climate change mitigation. Following a proof of concept phase, the project aims to reintroduce four million oysters to the Dornoch Firth (McVeigh, 2023). Recent research also suggests oyster restoration can be coupled with sustainable fisheries management to provide economic opportunity while enhancing biodiversity in sea lochs (Kennon et al., 2023), while also providing the primary intended ecosystem services of bioremediation of waste and excess nutrients. This intervention is rightly preceded (as per the mitigation hierarchy) by Glenmorangie reducing impacts on water quality using a new anaerobic digestion plant. This reduces biological load to the Firth by 95%, which means that oyster bed restoration aims to filter the residual 5% (McManamon, 2021). Research on the carbon sequestration capacity of oysters is complex and ongoing, with early assumptions of their potential as carbon sinks being drawn into question, so it is important that restoration efforts maintain a broad view of diverse benefits.
In this collaboration, each party brought their expertise (funding, research and field work, community support and advocacy) to ensure successful delivery and communication of the work. Effective communication can alleviate the lack of general awareness regarding land to sea flows, i.e. how food and drink production on land is impacting food production and environmental condition in the marine and coastal space, and how both can work together to create a more balanced, sustainable and productive environment. This project showcases success and benefits of coming together across the land-sea interface to achieve a shared vision with multiple benefits for the environment, society and the economy. The whisky industry in Scotland generates billions of pounds in revenue every year and provides thousands of jobs throughout rural communities (Scotch-whisky.org, 2019). This industry also relies heavily on high water quality and quantity to produce the spirit; so this is also an example of a direct dependency of a business on the health of the natural environment.
Riverwoods is built on three principles; collaboration, innovation and action, and is designed to contribute to the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. The multiple benefits of riverbank woodland environments for people and nature are at the core of this work and there is an aim to form partnerships and collaborations with organisations and individuals to accelerate the pace of change (Scottish Wildlife Trust, 2021). Funding is diversified across public, private and charitable sources, and is attracting additional funding through the voluntary carbon market and Woodland Carbon Code (Ogilvy et al., 2022).
Riverwoods operates on a catchment scale incorporating deer management, forestry, rivers, beavers, and promoting nature-based solutions in ways that do not unduly impact agricultural production. Different types of woodland will be developed in floodplains, riparian zones and gorges. There are multiple benefits to river woodlands that the project aims to capture: improving water quality, drought adaptation, alleviating flood risks, storing and sequestering carbon, maintaining sustainable soil health and structure, conserving biodiversity and ecosystems and improving health and wellbeing. There is an emphasis in the evidence review for this study on ensuring the appropriate and strategic placement in catchments (Ogilvy et al., 2022), akin to ‘planting the right tree in the right place’ and taking a place-based and landscape scale approach.
A Riverwoods evidence review acknowledges the flows of carbon, nutrients and water from source-to-sea, their importance from sea-to-source (especially for migratory fish) and the health benefits of all water environments to society (Ogilvy et al., 2022). This project showcases effective cooperation and collaboration across a key part of the source-to-sea system. It works with policy but is not led by it and has the potential to implement actions that will help to deliver on the strategic aims of global (UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, and several SDGs), national (Climate Change Adaptation Plan, Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, Wild Salmon Strategy, Scottish Soil Framework and the Blue Economy Vision) and local policies and frameworks. These should be increasingly inclusive of community groups and bottom-up action, but also projects like this that may be considered neither ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’ but ‘expanding from the middle’. The impact of climate change on coastal and marine environments is acknowledged in the report, but the seaward benefits that Riverwoods projects could bring have not yet been fully realised. Further phases of this project would be ideal for embedding a full source-to-sea approach.
Inner Dundrum Bay (Northern Ireland) – Catchment Scale
Work in Inner Dundrum Bay aimed to identify and improve diffuse and point source pollution to improve water quality. A modelling framework (SUCCESS and SWAT) identified the microbial and nutrient loadings to the bay, the wastewater and agricultural partitioning of these loads and the response of shellfish to nutrient loads, fulfilling the aims of the project and several EU Directives (Ferreira et al., 2021).
The use of technical and innovative solutions to identify and understand source-to-sea flows is a great example of a holistic management tool, which could be utilised across different areas and countries. The work spans several areas and stakeholders: wastewater industry, bathing waters, and shellfish aquaculture. Data ascertained indicated the shellfish carrying capacity of the bay and the response of shellfish to different nutrient loads to help inform future management (Ferreira et al., 2021). Such a model can help unlock several source-to-sea challenges: identifying sources of point and diffuse pollution and the nature of the flow (microbial, nutrients); investigating and predicting the effects land-sea flows can have on water quality and biodiversity; and helping to inform management decisions. Coupled ecosystem models are now being used in the wastewater industry and are gradually being implemented in agriculture settings.
Eden estuary and One Planet Choices (Scotland) – Estuary scale
One Planet Choices is a framework to enable sustainable catchment decisions and promote more innovative and collaborative solutions (see One Planet Choices explainer video). In the Eden catchment in Fife a trial between SEPA, Scottish Water and land managers was carried out to identify solutions to catchment-scale nutrient and water resource issues (Adams et al., 2023). One of the options identified by stakeholders was converting the nutrients from human sewage into struvite, a chemical fertilizer that binds to the soil and is only released when plants need it, making it less polluting to the environment. This has the potential to turn wastewater treatment plants into resource centres that provide fertilizer for vegetable producers in this key farming region. However, it would need an intermediary business to market and sell the fertilizer and would need to be at a larger regional scale to be commercially viable. This could go beyond the positive environmental outcomes that can be achieved through using nature-based solutions (e.g. bioremediation wetlands) by minimising phosphorus applications at source, by creating jobs and supporting a just transition.
A Bayesian network model was developed to help stakeholders manage freshwater environments to better understand the catchment system and the connected, holistic action required to address climatic and socio-economic scenarios. This is a great example of working with available data and knowledge to develop a model that can aid social-environmental interactions at scale in a holistic fashion (Adams et al., 2023).
MorPH project (3C’s) - England – Estuary scale
The 3C’s initiative, Championing Coastal Coordination, is led by the Environment Agency in collaboration with other public bodies in England. It is designed to enhance coordination to sustainably manage and increase coastal resilience.
An initial pilot ran 2021-2022 from which several projects received funding, one of which was the Coastal Partnerships Network, awarded funding to showcase the importance of partnerships between different stakeholders, marine networks across different scales from catchment, regional to national. Within this, the 3C’s South project brought actors together (Solent Forum, Dorset Forum and Isle of Wight Forum) to identify areas for improvement in coastal spatial integration, funding and governance. The report highlights the important and flexible role that coastal partnerships can play in bringing stakeholders together and the role that they might play in integrating environmental policy and governance if further government support (in the form of staff time and funding) is provided. They recommend that coastal and catchment partnerships are strengthened and take a ‘wholescape’ approach to the water environment (Coastal Partnership Network, 2022), which would capture both upstream and downstream flows and connections to deliver a variety of benefits, (especially regarding water quality, litter and plastics), and promote the sharing of perspectives and knowledge. There were also multiple recommendations on how to better integrate coastal and marine management, planning and governance that support the source-to-sea values of increasing communication, coordination and collaboration across the land-sea interface.
Amongst others, the MoRPh Estuaries project also received funding from the 3C’s initiative. This project aimed to develop a tool to assess estuarine habitats to help inform more sustainable management across freshwater-estuarine environments. This brought together various stakeholders: catchment and coastal partners and the public to build a citizen science evidence base of habitats along estuary margins. The survey is designed to complement and connect with the National Modular River Survey to provide whole catchment data (Shuker, 2023). There is an aim to create a publicly accessible map as the dataset grows (The Rivers Trust, 2022). Thus, helping to build a robust and accessible dataset while sharing knowledge and understanding with local communities.
Additional funding has been granted for 2023-2025 and the themes for the competitive funding fall under 3 categories:
- Coordination of planning and delivery of locally owned plans.
- Coastal champions to strengthen capacity and capability.
- Restoration and recovery of natural habitats.
These themes are set to encourage collaborative proposals by promoting cross-sectoral projects that incorporate both public and private funding mechanisms, while encouraging the application of natural capital approaches and increasing monitoring. The second theme in particular has a strong source-to-sea concept as it specifically requires a demonstration of understanding of the land-sea interface and the impacts upstream environments (terrestrial / freshwater) can have on estuarine environments. Projects funded by this initiative over the next three years therefore have the potential to demonstrate the importance of holistic source-to-sea management, and develop and test mechanisms to increase coordination and communication amongst key stakeholders across terrestrial-freshwater-estuarine environments (Environment Agency, 2023).
3.5.2 International examples
Trialling the source-to-sea approach in Ethiopia and Vietnam
Source-to-sea principles can still be used in projects that do not cross the land-sea interface, as is the case with this endorheic lake, Lake Hawassa, in Ethiopia. Sediment and plastics have been flowing into this Lake from upstream sources and erosion, which is having severe consequences for those who rely on the Lake for water and fishing. This project was used as a pilot study by SIWI to test the source-to-sea approach and demonstrates its flexibility in addressing different environmental systems (source to lake) and for forming solutions to multiple issues (sediment and plastic influx). This project highlighted the broad uses of the approach across different systems, linkages between upstream and downstream activities and their impacts and how the source-to-sea approach can support economic development and place-based improvements to governance systems (Weinberg et al., 2020).
In Vietnam, the Source-to-Sea Framework for Marine Litter Prevention (Mathews and Stretz, 2019) was applied for the Vu Gia-Thu Bon River Basin where plastic waste from the land to sea has been identified as a critical challenge. Addressing the plastic litter issue not only has positive environmental and ecological benefits but benefits the economy and the millions of tourists that visit every year. The first three steps of the source-to-sea approach were effectively used to characterise the sources of plastic pollution. Urban areas were found to create more plastic waste, but had greater collection and management services, while rural areas that generate less plastic waste but a greater percentage of this is unmanaged in coastal areas, making them more vulnerable to plastic leakage than densely populated sites. An assessment of stakeholders allowed those affected by and responsible for the plastic pollution to be engaged and brought together those with high interest and varying levels of influence over the distribution of waste management resources (Mathews and Groeneweg-Thakar, 2020).
Ridge to Reef
The Pacific Ridge to Reef project takes an integrated approach to managing and enhancing ecosystem services and goods across Pacific Island countries. Funding has been obtained through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) to undertake this programme of work, in collaboration with the UN Development Programme, the Food and Agricultural Organisation and UNEP as implementing partners (Pacific R2R, 2023).
In Fiji, the Lau Seascape Strategy has been developed to implement the Ridge to Reef (R2R) aims with a focus on cross-sectoral stakeholder cooperation to apply integrated resource management to improve coral health. Across the islands, communities have engaged with this R2R scheme with some islands taking system-wide and island-wide measures to improve the conditions from land to sea. For example, Cicia become an organic farming island where the use of fertilisers, pesticides and weedicides are banned (Fache and Pauwells, 2022). This built on a pre-existing informal ridge-to-reef scheme developed by Cicia Islanders that was based on local community knowledge across the land to sea continuum.
In Vanuatu, like other Pacific Islands, growing populations have had an impact on terrestrial and marine resources, particularly through increased sediment and nutrient run off. This led to the development of a decision support tool to identify the sources of terrestrial impacts on the marine environment that could help to predict how changes in terrestrial management could positively impact downstream systems (Delevaux and Stamoulis, 2021). This work also shows how linked land-sea tools can be create to inform environmental interventions in ‘data-poor’ regions (Delevaux and Stamoulis, 2021).
It is important to acknowledge that there are many existing social structures and projects in which people consider upstream-downstream connections and impacts across the world. The source-to-sea approach is designed to be inclusive, engaging diverse stakeholders, allowing local knowledge, expertise and practices to be incorporated into more formal strategies, plans and management approaches. This is with the aim of achieving consistent system-wide holistic management that still enables a place-based approach to be taken at different scales.
Denmark provides an example of the influence changes in governance can have for upstream-downstream impacts, and highlights that a holistic approach is needed to engage all stakeholders, from government, communities, organisations, and businesses, to achieve sustainable national change. While the EU have introduced targets for member countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 55% by 2030 (European Commission, 2020), Denmark have ambitious targets of 70% greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2030 (European Union, 2021) and reducing agricultural emissions will be necessary to achieve this. As such, Denmark have introduced additional tax on agriculture if they do not reduce their emissions, which has encouraged those working in the sector to think creatively about ways to reduce and minimise their emissions. To do so, upstream-downstream connections, impacts, and solutions have been considered and in response, shellfish farms are being created to address eutrophication downstream caused by land-based agricultural activities (Nielsen et al., 2016; Petersen et al., 2016). This example shows that best management practices for reducing nutrient inputs should firstly be focused on land-based solutions to minimise excess nutrient output, and that methods to address unavoidable loss should be considered elsewhere in the system to incorporate coastal and marine based solutions. Amplifying the set of tools available for reaching nutrient reduction targets to the marine environment may also provide additional economic, social and environmental benefits to coastal communities.
High quality models for nutrients and agriculture, such as those being developed by Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (Ferreira et al., 2022) can provide evidence and data required for circularity of biophysical flows and services. Mussel farming has become popular in Denmark, with communal mussel allotments being collectively managed to produce mussels for consumption by local communities (Fletcher, 2022). This is even possible in Copenhagen’s harbour (State of Green, 2015), demonstrating how investment from authorities and communities can transform water environments. These examples highlight the need for consistency, often they are isolated events rather than the normal protocol. Even within the Denmark example there is still work to be done.
4. Key Messages from Project
Key messages will elaborate on the what, why and how for source-to-sea action. These incorporate key messages from workshops 1 and 2.
4.1 What is a source-to-sea approach?
- There are two dimensions to source to sea co-ordination
- Upstream-downstream connections and biophysical flows
- Cross-sectoral collaboration
- A holistic approach facilitates cross-sectoral collaboration which is essential to overcome fragmented institutional and governance systems and to progress from siloed working.
- We do not have to design the approach from first principles; existing guidance is available from the global Source to Sea Action Platform. There is also crossover with ‘catchment management’, ‘landscape’ and ‘wholescape’ approaches.
- Truly integrated approaches enable positive benefits to be optimised from each action and investment we make. Considering system wide benefits of actions can help common goals be achieved though collaborative action.
- Holistic management not only requires a change in approach, and a review of necessary skills, but a change in mind-set. We must work with nature and with one another. Nature-based solutions and collaboration play key roles.
4.2 Why we need more holistic management?
- We must address the climate and nature crises together; if we fail at one, we fail at both. By tackling the fragmentation of methods to address the twin crises, we can be more effective and quicker in progressing the transformational change necessary.
- To gain efficiencies by addressing several challenges with fewer actions through greater coordination: litter, sustainable food systems, delivering necessary water quality and quantity, while also increasing biodiversity.
- Facilitating connections between organisations and sectors enables more effective implementation of existing policy and regulation and helps identify gaps that can be addressed with new actions, policies or legislation.
- When organisations discover synergies, work together, and communicate well with communities and the public regarding the use of land and water, projects that address the climate-nature crisis can be developed to produce system-wide benefits.
4.3 How can we implement it? Opportunities and enablers
- Coordinating actions in upstream and downstream environments to achieve common goals is crucial. It can be enabled by identifying shared environmental pressures, building understanding and empathy between stakeholders that are disparate but connected by pressure-effect relationships, and ultimately stimulating greater cross-sectoral collaboration. Some resourcing is needed to drive this collaboration, but on the whole this approach is about gaining efficiencies and synergies. As such, a little resource can potentially go a long way in achieving impact and delivering government commitments in a timely manner.
- Pilot / demonstrator projects are key to achieving public and private buy-in and can be initiated at local and regional levels by researchers, environmental charities and community groups, for example.
- Behavioural change is central to catalysing wider societal and circular change. Individuals need to be motivated and barriers need to be removed to facilitate change. Clear messaging should be used through different mediums (words, visuals, campaigns, educational resources), promoting inclusive action at all levels, from individuals to at-scale partnerships between upstream-downstream actors.
- Private, public and blended finance mechanisms are necessary to address the climate-nature crisis. There are opportunities and risks in green/blue finance for investors, so a collaborative approach to creating structured and trusted guidance is necessary to improve investment confidence, public trust and productive funding channels.
- Strategies should support the delivery of connected action and vice versa. Strategies and high-level policy for source-to-sea approaches exist in a basic form but are not yet stimulating sufficient implementation or reversal of negative trends. Something in the approach to policy implementation therefore needs to change (fragmented to holistic).
4.4 System-wide benefits of source-to-sea management
Some benefits will be place based while others will be diffuse and not place specific. There will be benefits that transcend jurisdictional and geographical boundaries, such as global climate benefits. The following is an indicative, not exhaustive, list of the diverse benefits:
- Actions to deliver on multiple strategies to produce sustainable outcomes. A source-to-sea approach facilitates actions that have wide-spanning benefits, not only for the targeted upstream-downstream environment, but for biodiversity, climate, water and food security. Holistic management fosters benefits across all environmental strategies through delivering on multiple aims.
- Linking SDGs, with benefits across society, economy and environment. Through considering the governance and biophysical flows across the entire source-to-sea system, the holistic approach can have benefits across several SDGs and political drivers.
- Increased collaboration, knowledge and resource sharing. The approach is centred around connections, communication and collaborations. Through considering upstream-downstream impacts, benefits from investments and actions can be maximised across partners.
- Wellbeing. By increasing the health and function of upstream-downstream ecosystems, taking a source-to-sea approach can facilitate the development of more blue and green spaces that are accessible and inclusive to communities.
- Biodiversity. Environments from land to sea are linked through several flows that are inclusive of, and crucial to, biodiversity.
- Multi-scale delivery. A source-to-sea approach facilitates the implementation of global (UN SDGs), national (Net Zero Emissions and a Just Transition) and local (local authority level climate action) goals, so works across multiple spatial tiers. Short-term targets can also be nested within the view to longer-term change, therefore also working at multiple temporal scales.
4.5 Recommendations for Scotland
4.5.1 Policy-based and regulatory
- Cross-cutting policy drivers can unlock the multiple benefits and solutions to address the nature-climate crises. Embedding a source-to-sea approach into the implementation of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, and across Regional Planning Partnerships (connecting marine, terrestrial and coastal plans) should be priority actions.
- We can use and implement existing cross-cutting Scottish policies and strategies that span terrestrial to marine environments. Several policy drivers recognise connectivity at a strategic level but could be much more explicit in their language and objectives to help drive connections and implementation across environmental and cross-sectoral systems. In doing so there should be a review and update of legal and technical remits to better enable the implementation of upstream-downstream interventions in the current framework.
- Regulatory mechanisms can continue to develop for discouraging negative impacts on the environment, but new regulatory approaches could also actively enable restoration and recovery actions for the environment. For example, regulation could:
- Require or incentivise land-management practices for improving (natural) soil structure and allowing the recovery of riparian habitats and their ecosystem functions, such as flood risk management.
- Target sources of micro-fibres and micro-plastics.
- Set and enforce higher standards in nature and water-positive infrastructure design and construction practices.
- Enhance outcomes from agri-environment scheme payments, with funding tiers that encourage greater improvements.
- Improving the mechanisms and communication channels linking the marine and terrestrial planning management systems should seek to avoid policies in one system that undermine the delivery of policies elsewhere. Updates to marine and terrestrial plans, strategies and polices therein (from national to local tiers) present an opportunity to highlight the links and collaboration required for holistic action and shared outcomes. Strategic processes at a national level are limited in the detail they can achieve, but there is real potential for Regional Marine Planning Partnerships, Local Authorities and Regional Land Use Partnerships to develop a collaborative approach and add value by finding synergies and working towards common goals.
- Improve cumulative effects assessment across the land-sea interface. A strategic plan-level approach to understanding cumulative assessment is not well developed, in either terrestrial or marine environments. As methods advance, they should accommodate an understanding of pressures and effects of land-sea flows.
- Planning authorities should promote and enable the multiple benefits of creating collaborative, connected and healthy spaces. Ensuring habitat connectivity and nature networks play a central role in urban – rural planning will reap benefits beyond biodiversity by increasing local, place-based access to blue and green spaces.
4.5.2 Communication and collaboration
- Information needs to be communicated to a wider audience, and source-to-sea issues understood to be within the remit of achieving ‘ocean literacy’, such as through delivery of Scottish Government’s Blue Economy Vision. New policies and strategies, and emerging environmental research, are often not communicated well to the public, communities or relevant business sectors. Efforts to share information in accessible ways and provide the resources for communities to implement the desired actions will build ‘social licence’ for interventions that come with some trade-off, compromise or inconvenience.
- Increase knowledge and use behavioural insights to shift attitudes and actions regarding the impacts of upstream actions on downstream environments across all levels. This should be inclusive of urban and rural pressures and the actions that the public, businesses, and government can take to help drive positive change.
- Better align research programmes and funding with the needs of policy and environmental practitioners. There have been some improvements with research councils already; further alignment with measurements of success and impact across academia and policy would be beneficial.
- Increased inclusion, co-design and participatory approaches: especially regarding community input, and youth engagement.
- Collaboration between different academic networks i.e. SAGES, MASTS, CREW for specific source-to-sea funding calls would be highly beneficial to capture links between social and natural science research across the land-sea continuum.
- Source-to-sea action and management can be driven by communities, local authorities, charities, organisations and the private sector and does not have to be led by the government. However, ‘bottom-up’ campaigns and ‘from-the-middle’ collaborative projects can drive changes in ‘top-down’ policy. We have the ability to create and utilise existing tools to strengthen our understanding of land to sea flows and consider public and private funding mechanisms for projects. Proof-of-concept and building a critical mass of ambition will help trigger enabling government policy.
- Adopting a holistic approach enables more efficient environmental management and should not add significantly to current workloads. Some sectors and flows have greater challenges to overcome than others in the face of climate change and anthropogenic disturbance, but progress can and has been made. Communication and collaboration is key to realising synergies and sharing skills and tools.
- Comprehensive stakeholder mapping, communication channels and networking opportunities can prime new valuable collaborations and partnerships that unlock opportunities for applied research and scientific support to management projects (and corresponding funding).
- Identifying ‘priority flows’, their effects across the source-to-sea continuum, and the multiple benefits of management interventions, would be a useful focus for strategic research funding.
- In identifying pressures and their upstream-downstream effects, ensure the development of indicators incorporate the effects of climate change. Furthermore, we must look to standardise monitoring systems so that environmental and wellbeing improvements can be adequately monitored across land-sea systems.
- Data, evidence and methodology gaps exist in environmental and social research across land to sea flows and impacts. However, we should seek to make better use of existing information by connecting existing datasets and models. Marine and terrestrial datasets rarely communicate. Through collaboration, we can support scientific advances to underpin integrated management. Many flows from land to sea are natural (carbon, nutrients, water) but alteration of these flows can harm the environment, communities and businesses, sometimes in places distant from the origin of the problem. To deliver a rebalancing of natural flows, and the curbing of unnatural flows, there is a need for efficient and connected data infrastructure, where actors can find datasets across land-freshwater-coastal-marine environments. Hosting, maintenance and access to data and analytical tools are key considerations.
- Technical innovation and circular business solutions are key to designing out the problems at the source, minimising residual issues that then need to be mitigated. Source control innovations (i.e. washing machines designed to capture micro-fibres) can prevent deleterious flows downstream in to rivers, estuaries and marine environments. However, waste also needs to be viewed as a resource that can be used in the system again (e.g. nutrient-rich human waste) and traded between businesses. Innovative solutions can facilitate the incorporation of circularity into business models.
- Create an active network of scientists interested in understanding source-to-sea flows and their management, and in the development of data and analytical tools. Share learning, avoid duplication of effort and encourage collaboration. For instance, the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland has already made advances with tools for assessing nutrient and microbial flows, which could be adapted to Scottish systems.
- The duration of many research funding models is limiting. In the UK they are often up to three years, but funding mechanisms for at least five years would provide time to (for example): translate data in to accessible formats, create added-value by fostering links with other projects, and put more effort into communication and public/stakeholder engagement.
4.6 Recommendations for NatureScot
Within this short (three-month) internship project, dialogue across teams within NatureScot has triggered some new ambitions and ideas. These include the potential for the evolution of ‘farming for nature’ advice and analytical tools to be better able to consider downstream outcomes all the way to the sea, and for the flow of ‘green investment’ of private money for nature restoration to potentially reflect the flow of effects and benefits between upstream-downstream actors. This is a small sample of opportunities that might well be overlooked without simple provocations. With relatively little but deliberate effort, further new ideas and opportunities can be forthcoming. Initial suggestions include:
- Increasing communication and collaboration between teams will enable synergies to be realised. Allowing some time and space within job plans can unlock new ideas and opportunities for internal collaboration, making best use of expertise from across the organisation.
- There are opportunities for new collaborations with other organisations to develop support and tools for source-to-sea action, spanning the public, charitable, business and academic sectors.
- Regarding scientific collaborations within Scotland, CREW (Centre of Expertise for Waters) are well positioned to facilitate timely scientific support to meet policy and regulatory need. Broader academic engagement opportunities in Scotland can be facilitated by MASTS and SAGES, the latter already having a fledgling source-to-sea forum. Regular communication with academics beyond Scotland will also be highly beneficial, as identified throughout this source-to-sea project: researchers and organisations in England, Northern Ireland and Wales all have projects that are looking to increase understanding and management across the source-to-sea interface.
- Coordinating opportunities and communication between diverse sectors, disciplines and stakeholders will not be in everyone’s job plan; some dedicated time and resource through future positions would be likely to trigger advances in management approaches and supporting science that will otherwise be overlooked.
- After the success of this short-term project and the workshops, it is clear that there is the demand for spaces to bring colleagues, other organisations and stakeholders working across the land-sea continuum together. NatureScot is in well-placed position to continue facilitating useful dialogue between government, organisations and communities.
A1. Annex 1 - Scottish policy drivers for source-to-sea action
Scotland is a world-leader in tackling climate change, with some of the most ambitious statutory targets in the world (Scottish Government, 2020b). Several policy drivers are already having positive upstream-downstream impacts, particularly in relation to climate adaptation and the role of nature-based solutions, but there are significant opportunities to increase and optimise land-sea connections for system-wide benefits. A map of strategic policy drivers was created to show key terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine policy drivers, and highlighting cross-cutting strategies that aim to foster land to sea connections. This is not exhaustive but includes key and overarching policy drivers (see Figure 2 in main report). While these strategies, policies and legislative tools aim to work across the land-sea interface and incorporate SDGs, implementation of the strategic aims is limited. A source-to-sea approach can help us to implement the strategic aims set out in existing and emerging policies.
Various policies have stemmed from EU Law, some of which have already been transposed to domestic legislation and are adopted through national policies. Many other EU legislative areas, under which the UK and devolved administrations did not already have secondary domestic legislation, are undergoing reform for a revised UK/Scottish approach (e.g. farming and fisheries), presenting an opportunity to embed holistic approaches, including source-to-sea.
Revision of other strategies and plans, such as the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and the National Marine Plan, and the emergence of cross-cutting pieces like the Environment Strategy and Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill are key opportunities to reaffirm the ambition for source-to-sea outcomes and to better enable their delivery.
A1.1 Cross cutting policy-drivers
Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy (Scottish Government, 2023a), River Basin Management Plan 2021-2027 (SEPA, 2021), Wild Salmon Strategy (Scottish Government, 2022d), the upcoming Environment Strategy for Scotland (Scottish Government, 2020b), and the emerging Flood Resilience Strategy are recognised as key drivers to improve biodiversity and the health of supporting environments (Scottish Government, 2023a). They are prime opportunities to better reflect land to sea connectivity in how we implement environmental protection and restoration. When considering the holistic qualities of policy drivers, we can consider how they incorporate the principles of the source-to-sea approach (Mathews and Pablo Murillo, 2022) (see Figure 5 in main report).
Here we outline the following cross-cutting policy drivers, alongside opportunities to boost effectiveness and implementation.
- The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy
- Scotland’s Wild Salmon Strategy
- Scotland’s Circular Economy Strategy
- Carbon and nutrient trading schemes
- River Basin Management Planning
- The Environment Strategy for Scotland
- Scotland’s Climate Change Plan
- Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme
Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. The greatest direct driver of biodiversity loss is the way in which we use land and sea (IPBES (2019)). Considering upstream-downstream impacts is vital to the successful delivery of Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy (SBS) (Scottish Government, 2023a), as nature does not exist by the environmental and governance boundaries and silos that we have created; carbon, nutrients, animals, even vegetation, all flow from land to sea. While some animals may be suited to life on land or in water, they are linked to land-sea flows (and vice versa) and can be affected by actions from elsewhere in the environment; changes in soil/water chemistry or structure, temperature, light availability, and water flow (for example) all contribute to changes in habitat. The SBS is tasked with addressing biodiversity declines across the land-sea interface, highlighting the importance of our terrestrial environments, rivers lochs, wetlands, and coasts and seas in tackling this challenge.
The SBS (Figure A1.1) highlights important drivers of biodiversity decline and recovery in terrestrial environments, rivers and inland waters, and coastal and marine environments. The cross-cutting biodiversity goals and recognition of the importance of environments from land-sea showcase the potential for the SBS to address environmental challenges in a truly holistic manner for system-wide benefits. Implementation of the strategy can benefit from deliberate attention to the connections and dependencies between these environments and, in particular, the impacts they can have on one another.
The Wild Salmon Strategy (WSS) is a promising holistic strategy to address upstream and downstream pressures on migratory fish. The primary pressures on Atlantic salmon span across the land, freshwater, estuarine and marine environments and include (but are not limited to); predation, disease, invasive species, water quality and quantity, marine developments and instream and riparian habitats (Scottish Government, 2022d) as well as physical barriers (Adams, 2018; Thorstad et al., 2021) (Figure A1.2). There is consideration given to the economic value of wild salmon, but also their role within the ecosystem and their place-based, cultural importance. This strategy recognises the importance of government support for the implementation of this strategy but also notes the crucial role of existing and developing partnerships between public, private and charitable bodies. The WSS is progressing through the readiness levels developed by SIWI (see Figure 8 of main report), but it is acknowledged that it has not necessarily made connections to the full range of holistic action it could. The implementation plan for the WSS will be an opportunity to build upon existing partnerships and ensure the strategic aims of this policy are realised through:
- Working across policy priorities and drivers. Key associated drivers are listed in the WSS, but it will be important to communicate with those creating the revised National Marine Plan, the new Flood Resilience Strategy and the Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill.
- Increasing communication and collaboration. Prioritising communication across private and public bodies to secure diverse finance streams for place-based action and funding of District Salmon Fishery Boards, promoting catchment scale collaboration and action across rivers and fisheries trusts. Gathering and communicating evidence of cumulative effects, both positive and negative, of actions across land-freshwater-coastal-marine environments that have significant effects on wild salmon populations at catchment scale.
- Adaptive action. We must ensure mechanisms are in place for timely responses to place-based pressures, changes in habitat and emerging science and data.
- Incorporating innovation. Assess the role that innovative technical tools could play in realising the extent of pressures on wild salmon populations, i.e. scientific models (encompassing nutrient flows, temperature changes, impacts of climate change across land-sea system) and LiDAR.
The Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 promotes coordination and cooperation between stakeholders across scales (local, regional, national) and across multiple types of ‘water body’. It aims to ensure strategic policies are acted upon through a relatively place-based approach, enabling local authorities to assess and manage water bodies within their area. The flood risk management strategies are published by SEPA, who help to co-ordinate action across public bodies and regions. The recent Water Resilient Places Policy Framework (Scottish Government, 2021a) builds upon these principles, promoting cross sectoral working, community involvement and coherence across existing frameworks to use Scotland’s blue-green infrastructure effectively for drainage and flood management. Recommendations produced from this policy framework encourage more holistic action through greater coordination between departments, organisations and flows of water. Greater emphasis on this coordination is likely to come through in the forthcoming Scottish Government Flood Resilience Strategy. While current documents are good at prioritising risks and hazards, future updates could encompass more holistic principles through:
- Assessing the links across the land-sea systems and considering the increasing role that coastal and land management could play in minimising exposure to flooding. For example, soil health and compaction are often overlooked but have a key role in flood management and could be a key component in delivering effective flood management.
- Working across government departments as well as public and private organisations to ensure the development of climate resilient places, in economic, social and the environmental sense.
- Assessing water storage and run off at catchment scale to help address and balance increasing seasonal droughts.
- Increased links between the benefits of a flood strategy for people and biodiversity, to maximise benefits and help to provide nature networks.
- In the coastal setting, recognising and responding to the interplay between catchment scale flooding, coastal change (erosion and accretion, as detailed in the Dynamic Coast mapping tool) and the formation of coastal adaptation plans (including the use of nature-based solutions for system resilience).
The Circular Economy Strategy (Scottish Government, 2016) has made a great start on promoting less waste and different consumption and production patterns but additions could be made to the upcoming Circularity Bill to direct implementation of a source-to-sea approach and produce greater system wide benefits.
- More attention should be given to the land-sea flow of micro-plastics and fibres, encouraging higher standards for producers and innovative solutions for consumers.
- The incorporation of biophysical land-sea flows into circular strategies is essential to create a circular environmental economy. In particular, flows of excess nutrients should be a resource that can be recycled and used by other sectors.
- Expand the current boundaries of the circular economy to maximise the inclusion of biological circularity in farming, fishing and forestry, as suggested in Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2019).
The River Basin Management Plan 2021-2027 (RBMP) (SEPA, 2021) sets out a plan for Scotland’s water environment including actions to create healthier and more resilient communities, address water supply and wastewater issues, enable sustainable and resilient rural land use and management, and to remove man-made barriers to fish migration. The RBMP has been made in line with the Water Framework Directive, incorporating EU law into the Scottish system, with a seaward boundary of three nautical miles and including enclosing water bodies such as the Minch and the firths. It is hoped that through a more systematic approach, multiple benefits can be secured for the environment, society and economy. The 2021-2027 RBMP encourages many holistic measures, including partnership working and recognising the value of blue / green spaces to society (culturally and in relation to mental wellbeing) and the economy. These approaches offer efficiencies across some policies, encouraging terrestrial developments to create better places for nature and people and considering the role of circularity across the land-sea interface (SEPA, 2021). Developing opportunity tools and a spatially connected approach should effectively enhance the delivery of this plan and there is great potential for more holistic management if we can ensure the implementation of these aims. To implement and advance the holistic approach of the RMBP:
- Ensure there is link up and efficiencies across policy drivers: Land use planning and flood risk management are mentioned in RBMP, but this should be extended to include efficiencies with the National Performance Framework (NPF), National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4), and in particular with future national and regional marine plans (NMP and RMPs), Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) for land and Regional Land Use Partnerships (RLUPs) to ensure that priority actions work harmoniously. Communication and coherence between with RMPs and RLUPs will facilitate the adaptive implementation of nature-based and place-based solutions in unison with the RMBP. Resources (staff time) should be considered in work plans for this collaboration, to ensure real influence on farming and forestry activity (for example).
- Highlight the importance of small bodies of water, including but not limited to sustainable urban drainage systems. Small water bodies and streams are essential for biodiversity, effective nature networks, nutrient management and many other source-to-sea issues, but often fall outside the scope of broad scale surveillance and reporting that informs RBMP actions. Collaboration with local authorities, planners and relevant public bodies should help to ensure smaller bodies of water are not overlooked.
- Put greater emphasis on effective water storage and the role that soils and habitats can play in this. Efficiencies and synergies across the RMBP, Scottish Soils Framework, flood risk management and Circular Economy Strategy should be developed to highlight the need for biophysical circularity (of water, nutrients and carbon).
- Stronger policy language (in marine and terrestrial plans) could be used to ensure that developments meet minimum requirements for nature, standardising methods of establishing the amount of ‘net gain’ for nature and how to monitor and enforce this.
- Develop models to help predict how changes in the water environment will impact upstream-downstream environments, including increasing collaboration across organisations such as SEPA, Scottish Water, NatureScot, JNCC and Marine Scotland to facilitate connected action across the water environment and its various policy and regulatory mechanisms.
The Environment Strategy for Scotland (Scottish Government, 2020b) (under development) poses an opportunity to embed a source-to-sea approach across all environmental policies / strategies / plans. The Vision and Outcomes present holistic aims of responding to the nature-climate crisis. It has the potential to be a transformative strategy that maximises benefits across the land-sea interface for society, economy and the environment, if implementation mechanisms and resources are put in place. In support of the vision, we recognise that:
- The nature-climate crises are intrinsically linked.
- We need transformative change.
- Collective efforts will be directed to produce multiple outcomes.
- There will be a robust governance system to implement and enforce environmental action.
- A holistic approach to food production is needed, assessing food security and sustainability, across land and sea simultaneously, facilitating conversations that acknowledge the connections between land-based food production and marine-based food production.
- Regulatory mechanisms should be improved so that they not only discourage negative impacts on the environment, but actively deliver positive impacts on the environment across environmental strategies.
The emerging Environment Strategy for Scotland is also well aligned with national and global targets (Figure A1.3) and highlights how human and environmental systems need to work together to address climate change.
Scotland’s Climate Change Plan update (Scottish Government, 2019a) is an addition to the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019, reflecting increased Net Zero ambitions. This update outlines a more holistic path forwards from the COVID-19 pandemic to a just, net zero transition. The prioritisation of social, economic and environmental wellbeing aligns well with the source-to-sea approach, and highlights that the nature-climate and social crises should be addressed together where possible. Cross-sectoral input has been key to developing this green recovery strategy and it is clear that both public and private investment streams will play be essential in delivering a just transition to net zero. A ‘Co-ordinated approach’ is one of the primary tools being harnessed to deliver this green recovery and climate change plan, with the goal of cohesively delivering on multiple policies. This can only be done through ensuring there is upstream-downstream co-ordination of actions and investments. This plan already aims to take a ‘whole-systems’ approach, which should already encompass some of the source-to-sea principles, to be holistic and collaborative. A source-to-sea approach can help to deliver participatory, co-ordinated actions that can facilitate upstream-downstream benefits, to further action:
- Maximise synergies between departments and organisations across international-national-regional-local scales to achieve strengthened collaborations while also taking a place-based approach.
- Identify and fund the research and implementation of nature-based solutions that support the coordinated approach (which aims to bring together climate change, biodiversity, infrastructure, planning, land-use, marine and economic strategies). Within this we must consider the important role coastal zones play and the role of soil structure and water storage to protect current carbon stores.
- The term blue carbon has become synonymous with habitats that capture carbon in the marine environment, but we must be mindful of the entire carbon cycle and upstream and terrestrial sources of carbon and their relationship with water.
- There is a need to ensure adequate time in work-plans for collaboration and communication between parties, to ensure sustained joint working across government bodies.
Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Plan (SCCAP) has been developed as a result of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and outlines the government’s five-year plan (2019-2024) for climate change adaptation. It is designed to cut across the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Scotland’s National Performance Framework (NPF) (Figure A1.4). It focusses on seven comprehensive primary outcomes to achieve inclusive, just and resilient communities that are responsive to climate change through a sustainable economy, resilient societal support systems and protected and enhanced environmental systems. The vision of this programme is that ‘We live in a Scotland where our built and natural places, supporting infrastructure, economy and societies are climate ready, adaptable and resilient to climate change’.
The development of the SCCAP incorporates several cornerstones of the source-to-sea approach through being flexible, results orientated, participatory and holistic while utilising different methods of stakeholder engagement and monitoring outcomes. The SCCAP also co-ordinates climate action across different scales (local – national) and supports the delivery of multiple cross-cutting policies through its outcomes. Programs such as ‘Climate Ready Places’ help to increase resilience across several levels (communities, cities, regions) while community adaptation actions provide some concepts to empower communities to take practical action to increase local climate resilience. The SCCAP has great potential to increase connections between, and outcomes for, several policies and strategies.
An updated SCCAP should stimulate more complex and connected habitat cover from source-to-sea, as recommended by Bullock et al., (2022). To ensure actions realise multiple benefits across systems at local and community level, we suggest the development of clear and accessible finance options for community scale projects for climate resilience, providing concepts and funding mechanisms for place-based implementation of the plan. Working to ensure that the links between ecosystem services from source to sea are recognised is crucial to providing a framework that effectively values and helps to manage our environment. As climate change progresses, we must think about upstream-downstream connections to create and fire and drought resilient landscape, while maximising the positive benefits this can have for ecosystems, the economy and society.
A1.2 Terrestrial policy drivers and planning
This section outlines the following terrestrial policy drivers, their relevance to source-to-sea approaches, and some opportunities to boost their effectiveness and implementation.
- Scotland’s Land Use Strategy, and Regional Spatial Strategies
- Scotland’s Forestry Strategy
- Scotland’s Vision for Agriculture
- Land Rights and Responsibilities
- National Planning Framework 4 and the built environment
- Scottish Soil Framework
Scotland’s Land Use Strategy, and Regional Spatial Strategies. A land-use strategy is predominantly designed with terrestrial management as the focus, but it can be holistic, recognising the connections, impacts and dependencies that systems can have on one another. Scotland’s Third Land Use Strategy (LUS) (Scottish Government, 2021b) takes a relatively holistic approach to achieve sustainable land use, moving away from a sector-by-sector approach. It is well suited to achieving system-wide benefits by considering the upstream-downstream benefits that sustainable land management can provide. This approach encourages collaboration, synergies and efficiencies between sectors and land uses, and inclusivity – accepting that this is not solely a top-down task.
“The ways that we manage and use our land and our terrestrial water bodies affects our marine environment”
(Scotland’s third Land Use Strategy)
The LUS has aims to develop and align with Regional Spatial Strategies (RSS) which should help to promote a place-based approach to management and provide a spread of resources. This is the most ‘blue’ LUS to date, with coastal and marine sections, strongly recognising the interconnections between the land, coast and sea. The formation of regional land use partnerships (RLUPs) will encourage collaboration with stakeholders and local communities. RLUPs plan to take a natural capital and ecosystem approach to achieve the goal of working collaboratively to optimise land use for a sustainable future, linking in with Regional Spatial Strategies. The changes that the LUS desires in the Scottish landscape are shown through a graphic (Figure A1.5) highlighting the ambition for floodplains, increased / restored wetlands, and biodiversity benefits across land, freshwater and sea, which presents a promising and connected vision.
To ensure that this vision is achieved the following recommendations could help to secure holistic action:
- Connect RLUPs to Regional Marine Planning Partnerships (RMPPs) through RSSs. It is understood by both the LUS and NMP (National Marine Plan) that the land and sea are connected and that flows exist between the two. A spatial approach to environmental management presents a clear opportunity to link through RLUPs and RMPPs to work towards common goals and maximise outcomes across strategies.
- Source-to-sea can be used as a mechanism to implement the natural capital and ecosystem-based approach that the LUS and RLUPs aim to adopt. An example of this in practice is emerging via the England-focussed Natural Capital Ecosystem Assessment programme, which includes a series of projects regarding the land-sea interface.
Scotland’s Forestry Strategy (Scottish Government, 2019b) is designed in accordance with the UK Forestry Standard and aims to sustainably manage forests and woodlands, ensuring that they are better integrated with other land uses. The strategy demonstrates the system-wide benefits forests can produce regarding contributions to clean water, flood mitigation, recreation, wellbeing and enhancing biodiversity (Scottish Government, 2019b). There is a more integrated approach to policy making, and several priority actions listed in the strategy, but some advances could be made to ensure upstream – downstream flows are considered, and benefits are realised:
- Increase communication, collaboration, coordination. The strategy admits to tensions having previously arisen between forestry and other land uses, and the key to harmonious relationships, finding synergies and navigating compromises is effective communication. Collaboration should be across strategies and plans but also be inclusive and enhance public-private-community communication. Alongside the strategies listed, this strategy should complement and support the delivery of RBMP, Scotland's future agriculture policy, Scotland's Economic Transformation Strategy, Wild Salmon Strategy and could link up with the RSSs and community networks.
- Goal alignment. The aims of the Forestry Strategy should be integrated across RLUPs and RSSs, aligning with the needs of different regions and catchments, and creating spaces that can deliver multiple benefits across the land-sea environment. Mechanisms and resources to facilitate collaborations and alignment are necessary.
- Skills and knowledge development. To develop a shared understanding of sustainable forest management, educational resources to provide landowners and managers with the desired knowledge and training to deliver multiple benefits is required.
- Multiple benefits should be optimised when expanding forest areas. Forests can deliver spaces for recreation, wellbeing, biodiversity and climate. The development of forests and related operations should always consider habitat connectivity, accessibility, natural assets and capital, and effects on downstream environments.
Agriculture currently accounts for over 70% of land use in Scotland (Brand, 2021), so how it is managed has significant impacts on nature and climate outcomes. Agriculture is undergoing a period of transformation post-Brexit, from which we need to initiate a significant shift towards regenerative agriculture and nature-rich farming at both catchment and farm scales. A vision of nature-rich low-carbon Scottish farms is not a choice between nature and food production, but supporting farmers and crofters to be at the forefront of restoring nature and meeting climate change targets alongside sustainable food production. A new wave of agriculture policies will influence the health of the environment and society for years to come. This will not only influence climate change and biodiversity outcomes, but also strategic land use, land reform, the food and drink industry and the resilience of rural communities, which are all dependant on land use priorities (Brand, 2021). There are opportunities for agricultural reform to:
- Implement the strategic aims in the Land Use Strategy through meaningful cross-sectoral collaboration and upstream-downstream cooperation, for both policy/plan development and implementation.
- Incorporate water and soil quality targets into agricultural legislation, with monitoring requirements. To encourage this, reaching or exceeding water quality targets could be acknowledged through a tier of the agri-payments scheme.
- Encourage catchment scale collaboration between farmers to develop connected habitats and work within catchment scale nutrient budgets.
- Evolve perceptions, legal instruments and incentives to help shift ‘private land for private interests’ attitudes towards a stewardship mentality to land ownership.
- The new agricultural policy and corresponding payment system could incentivise system-wide and multiple benefits through a source-to-sea approach. For example, coordinating water storage between upstream-downstream actors could improve water and food security, and flood adaptation while also benefitting biodiversity and communities.
- Ensure there is communication and collaboration between the RMPPs and RLUPs, using explicit language to prioritise finding synergies and efficiencies between them. RSSs and Rural Economic Partnerships (REPs) may play a role in achieving this.
Basic agricultural payments under the Agri-environment Climate Scheme (AECS) contribute towards the delivery of national and international targets relating to biodiversity, climate change, water quality and flooding, and to support organic farming, the historic environment and improving public access (NatureScot, 2021). Within this, some interventions delivered more than one benefit, e.g.:
- Management options for bird food provisions also delivered water quality benefits.
- Water margins for arable fields delivered water quality benefits for downstream ecosystems.
- Species rich grassland management provided more diverse habitats (NatureScot, 2021) and can also improve carbon storage in soils (Norton et al., 2021; Xu et al., 2020).
- Carbon rich soils (lowland bogs and wetlands) contributed to climate change and biodiversity targets. Wetlands can also deliver water quality benefits downstream by filtering out nutrients and contaminants (Kay et al., 2009) and act as flood defences (Fairchild et al., 2021; Narayan et al., 2017; Zelst et al., 2021).
AECS could be a key tool in delivering multiple climate benefits, but actions to deliver secure food and water resources while addressing the nature-climate crisis could increasingly fall within the remit of basic agricultural payments to ensure an improved baseline of environmental protection in Scotland.
In current AECS payments there was limited uptake of ‘converting arable land at risk of erosion or flooding’ and ‘management of flood plains’. These actions need to be encouraged for climate resilience, particularly in relation to changes in water distributions and storage. As climate change progresses, sea levels rise, and water distribution varies, it may not be possible for coastal landowners to use certain areas for agriculture due to increased flooding from fresh and / or salt water (Guimond and Michael, 2020). To ensure land is still productively used, nature-based solutions could be used for natural flood defences that serve many other benefits for biodiversity and carbon storage (i.e. saltmarsh, seagrass), while protecting inland fields from flooding and maintaining productivity elsewhere. In this sense, payments for ecosystem services could be introduced as something that aligns with, but is not necessarily directly funded by, the agriculture sector. For example, if effectively managing a portion of land as a floodplain upstream could decrease flooding on roads or railway lines, then those that benefit (i.e. public and private entities responsible for maintaining transport networks) could contribute to the maintenance of this ecosystem service.
A revised approach to agri-environment payment schemes could consider:
- Place-based strategies, through RLUPs, on effective upstream-downstream water storage options to minimise effects of seasonal drought and flooding events in catchments. Several policies and plans must work together on this, including the LUS, RBMP and NMP. Collaborations with RSSs and RMPPs should be encouraged to ensure that efforts to alleviate drought and flood are coordinated across the ‘coastal zip’.
- Increasing inclusion of biodiversity throughout basic payments. Clear guidance and payments for farmers on payment opportunities for increasing actions for climate-nature resilience.
- Committing resources to knowledge exchange and skill enhancement required for farm managers and farmers to conduct more nature-friendly farming.
- Incentivising farmers to collaborate (with each other and with supportive organisations) on, for example, riparian woodland restoration and buffer strips around rivers and burns, stimulating catchment scale restoration and increasing habitat connectivity.
The Scottish Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement sets out strong ambitions for Scotland’s land to contribute to a sustainable successful country, supporting environmental and societal goals such as a Just Transition to Net Zero. This statement applies to rural and urban environments and landowners/managers; the Scottish Land Commission have subsequently developed guidance on the Good Stewardship of Land (Scottish Land Commission, 2023).
- Increase communication and collaboration between public bodies and private land owners to ensure actions work towards common goals. This should also be central to RLUPs.
- Develop legal frameworks and incentives that encourage stewardship of the land and resources, with adequate communication of knowledge and peer-to-peer experiences to facilitate new ambition. Cross-sectoral collaboration will be key to achieving this.
National Planning Framework and the built environment. A source-to-sea approach is not only beneficial for rural environments, it can help to build resilience and improve environmental planning in urban and other built environments (Herbart-Coleman and Mathews, 2023). Areas of developed infrastructure can experience many interconnected challenges and exist within the same fragmented management systems that span from land to sea. A coordinated approach between different stakeholders is required to resolve upstream - downstream flows within the built environment, and there is likely to be a more complex range of stakeholders due to higher population densities in urban areas. Bridging across sectors can help to improve implementation of existing strategies and find efficiencies in achieving National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) aims of achieving sustainable, liveable and productive places (Scottish Government, 2023b).
- National, regional and local planning frameworks should embed a source-to-sea approach to ensure policy coherence and effective implementation across these levels and from land to sea.
- Local authorities could blend source-to-sea thinking with the Place Principle, to help implement multiple aspects of the NPF4. Efficiencies in overall public spending can be sought by working with other governance systems to avoid duplicated actions, actively manage any risk of undermining each other’s objectives and seek synergies via coherent upstream-downstream actions.
- Consider the role of Scotland’s 32 Community Planning Partnerships in raising awareness and ambition for coordinated action across the land-sea interface for both urban and rural land-sea flows (Scottish Government, 2020a).
- Updates to the Urban Waste Water Treatment Regulations in the EU could be adopted or exceeded by Scotland. This would trigger more work on micro-plastics and associated monitoring (for example), with potential for multiple benefits across society, economy and environment.
The Scottish Soil Framework (2009) set an admirable vision for better coordination across sectors and stakeholders to recognise the importance of soil health and to protect soils for current and future generations. Progress has been limited though, with soil health not receiving the practical attention that its importance deserves. For example, soil compaction is not currently a prioritised issue in flood management and nutrient retention, while loss of soil biodiversity undermines multiple provisioning (e.g. plant productivity) and maintenance (e.g. pollutant control) ecosystem services. FAO, (2020) raise the profile of soils importance, which could be usefully translated into tangible actions that would allow us to protect, restore and value soil health in Scotland. In the context of source-to-sea approaches, our monitoring, ambitions and policy frameworks for soil could extend to marine sediments.
A1.3 Freshwater and coastal policy drivers
This section outlines the following freshwater and coastal policy drivers, their relevance to source-to-sea approaches, and some opportunities to boost their effectiveness and implementation.
- Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act
- Coastal Adaptation Plans
Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act consolidates multiple salmon and freshwater fishing laws in one place. Consolidation updates allow District Salmon Fishery Boards to have some authority through issuing specific licences which allows some level of place-based management. Farmed and wild fisheries are governed by the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act. Fisheries and aquaculture policy does not yet fully encompass upstream-downstream flows, except perhaps for sea lice issues. However, more recent additions, such as the Wild Salmon Strategy, are taking a more coherent approach regarding upstream-downstream connections and flows. There is large potential for the inclusion of source-to-sea flows within aquaculture and fisheries regulation and management as we consider the circular links between ecosystem services across the land to sea. Increasing inclusion of circular flows should be given consideration in updates, for example the bioremedial use of shellfish cultivation to enhance water quality, and the use of seaweed to enhance not only enhance water quality, but to be used as a fertiliser on land and for additional terrestrial products. Greater coordination between aquaculture and fisheries strategies and their terrestrial counterparts could be beneficial for restoring and enhancing environmental conditions across systems. Greater coherence between sectoral growth ambitions (driven by food security and economic policy) and environmental policy limits - as spotlighted through parliamentary enquiries, is needed through the new Aquaculture Vision for Scotland.
Shoreline Management Plans will gradually be superseded by Coastal Adaptation Plans, just one aspect of work flowing from the Climate Change (Scotland) Act and the Climate Ready Scotland Adaptation Programme. The Dynamic Coast tool for mapping past and projected coastal change is a useful resource in prioritising and informing interventions and managed coastal retreat/realignment. SEPAs online tool for mapping of coastal flooding risks is similarly helpful. Such tools are valuable resources for stimulating meaningful dialogue with stakeholders and communities at the land-sea interface, and with those from further upstream and offshore whose actions and investments could have positive or negative influences on the adaptation capacity of our coasts to future climate scenarios. Recent Interim Guidance has been published for Coastal Change Adaptation Plans (CCAPs) (Scottish Government, 2023c). This guidance has several principles of source-to-sea already embedded as it focuses on collaborative, prioritising, results orientated and adaptive themes. There is a strong emphasis on working beyond ‘administrative boundaries’ to address changing coastal processes, which feeds into the core themes of source to sea; increasing cross-sectoral collaboration and coordination and connecting systems. New CCAPs have strong foundations for increasing inclusivity and action through utilising Coastal Forums, local authorities and working collaboratively with RSSs, while taking a place-based approach for tailored action.
CCAPs recognise that actions to protect one resource could positively or negatively impact coastal processes elsewhere in the system, and this should feature increasingly throughout. Through ensuring that source-to-sea and sea-to-source flows are central to this plan, multiple benefits can be realised across the coastal system and in upstream and downstream environments. Including collaborations with regional marine and terrestrial plans and strengthening circularity in coastal systems and activities can help to achieve this. Thought has gone into early inclusion and conversations with communities to ensure that plans are developed with local input which will be crucial to successful implementation and coastal communities to ensure a well-tailored place-based approach is realised. These interim principles are a promising start to more collaborative and holistic conversations across the terrestrial-freshwater-coastal-marine systems.
A1.4 Marine policy drivers
This section focusses on marine planning and its interaction with its strategic terrestrial and freshwater policy counterparts. Particular attention is given to aquaculture policy due to its strong relationship with upstream pressures and outcomes. The broad remit of marine plan policies, objectives and processes serves as a catch-all for considering source-to-sea flows relevant to all three pillars of Scotland’s Marine Nature Conservation Strategy: ‘site protection’ (protected areas), ‘species conservation’ (e.g. cetaceans and seals), and ‘wider seas policies and measures’.
The Marine Directorate of Scottish Government’s responsibilities include marine planning, conservation and licensing from Mean High Water Springs to 12 nautical miles (nm), with some additional executive devolved responsibilities (marine planning particularly) to 200 nm. Consequently there is an overlap between marine licensing and terrestrial development consent (for local authorities) responsibilities in the intertidal zone. Integration of marine and terrestrial planning and consenting / licensing systems in this immediate coastal interface is a significant challenge in itself, but is amplified further when we consider the much broader connectivity of land to sea through the whole catchment and water environment. Nevertheless, the integration of marine and terrestrial planning and licensing is an important step toward addressing land to sea flows – such as carbon, nutrients, plastics and contaminants - as excessive upstream inputs / actions could undermine marine plan objectives and policies if not properly coordinated. Of course, we can also conclude that good management of such pressures originating upstream and on land can help achieve many marine plan objectives. Most recently, new direction is given to marine planning in Scotland by ‘Blue Economy Vision for Scotland’; the BEV explicitly refers to ‘the inter-linked freshwater resources’, paving the way for clearer consideration of source-to-sea flows in achieving BEV outcomes.
Like the Land Use Strategy, despite its particular focus on its named environment, Scotland's National Marine Plan (NMP) can be holistic in the approach taken to policy development and implementation, by reflecting the dependencies and influences that the land and sea have on one another. The first NMP was accompanied by the Planning Circular 1/2015 ‘The relationships between the statutory land-use planning system and marine planning and licensing’. This circular set out ambitions for integration between marine and terrestrial planning authorities (Scottish Government, 2015), but has so far made limited progress in operationalising this integration. The opportunity to make advances is perhaps most obvious at the regional tiers of planning, by increasing coordination across Regional Marine Planning Partnerships (RMPPs), Local Development Plans (LDPs) and Regional Spatial Plans (RSS). Marine plans are connected to other environmental strategies through the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, National Performance Framework and National Planning Framework (to name just a few) and will also sit alongside all other environmental plans under the new Environment Strategy, so it is beneficial to develop mechanisms (such as source-to-sea logic) to deliver benefits across strategies.
So far, three (Clyde, Shetland, Orkney) of the eleven Scottish Marine Regions identified (Scottish Marine Regions Order 2015) have had partnerships formed with the delegated authority to create marine plans (for adoption by Scottish Ministers). Where and when adopted RMPs exist, terrestrial planning authorities are required to consult the RMPPs on fish farm applications and other developments potentially affecting the marine environment.
Beyond matters of the built environment, the emergence of RLUPs (Regional Land Use Partnerships) present an excellent opportunity to embed a source-to-sea and place-based approach, but RLUPs currently lack any clear mechanism for considering marine consequences of actions they trigger.
Looking ahead, useful steps could include:
- The revision of Scotland’s National Marine Plan could set the strategic framing for more effective integration of marine planning with terrestrial planning and land-use changes, from policy development to implementation, and give clear direction to the role of this integration in enabling good marine outcomes and avoiding undermining marine plan objectives. This is an opportunity to be more explicit in the connections between the land and sea, i.e. key flows, and put in place clearer steps and layers in the governance process to connect the different plan-making and partnerships and decision-making authorities between land and sea.
- The next National Marine Plan could be accompanied be a revised planning circular that clarifies the need for land-sea planning integration to reach beyond the immediate coastal interface and address whole catchment to sea connectivity. It should also provide clear instruction on how integration is to be achieved during plan development and the subsequent implementation of policies.
- RMPPs, RLUPs and local authorities could collaborate in adopting source-to-sea principles that identify specific risks, opportunities and appropriate policy responses across their respective plans. Layering this with a place-based approach, based on Scottish Government’s Place Principle, could further enable locally supported positive interventions across environmental, social and local economic outcomes. Generally, whether in a statutory (e.g. RMPPs) or voluntary (e.g. Local Coastal Partnerships) context, partnership structures are vehicles for promoting cross-sectoral collaboration and engagement, helping to build momentum towards solutions to environmental challenges and develop local networks. As a mechanism for inclusivity and community participation, even voluntary partnerships can play a pivotal role in the implementation of plans and policies.
It can be concluded that Scotland already has a suite of existing and emerging high-level strategies and policies that signal intent for an approach to environmental management that recognises the inherent water-based connectivity between land and sea. We do not therefore need new or additional strategies, but tools, information and ways of working that help us implement this good intent.
Recent public and parliamentary scrutiny of the environmental impact of finfish aquaculture presents a timely opportunity to re-appraise upstream-downstream pressures and impacts in relation to fish farming. Scotland’s Aquaculture Vision (Scottish Government 2023d), and any policies or interventions that follow, could usefully give deliberate thought to source-to-sea (and sea-to-source, in the case of wild salmonid impacts) flows. Related to this is forthcoming proposed introduction of SEPAs Sea Lice Framework and the implementation of The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011.
Regarding shellfish aquaculture there may be opportunities to re-evaluate the sensitivity of shellfish production to contaminants and other pressures discharged from rivers, potentially changing the way we classify shellfish production areas. Through collaborative efforts between research, policy and businesses, eDNA techniques could be tailored to distinguish between urban and agricultural effluents, leading to a more accurate categorisation of the shellfish that can be produced, and/or its end use or market. In addition to using E.Coli as a proxy for evaluating whether the shellfish is safe for human consumption, more specific sources of the contamination could be monitored. This may help identify areas that have levels of E.Coli above grade B classification (as per Shellfish Growing Regulations), but also where the main source of the runoffs is coming from agricultural runoff and therefore presents a lower risk of norovirus being present.
There is also potential to better leverage bioremediation services from the capacity of shellfish to filter larger volumes of water carrying excess nutrients or contaminants, particularly where market opportunities can be found for shellfish that are not for human consumption (maybe including restoration of natural bivalve habitats). Related to this, nutrient markets are at different stages of development and testing in other countries, presenting opportunities to incentivise better nutrient management on land, and/or to generate income for marine bivalve habitat restoration.
A2. Annex 2 - Workshop 1 report
Source to Sea
WORKSHOP 1 REPORT DRAFT
On 24.02.2023 we held a half day online workshop from 0930 - 1300. There were 40 online participants that had been invited to attend based on their expertise in policy, science and experience across the terrestrial to marine interface. Participants spanned several sectors: NGOs, public bodies, academia. The private sector was the least well represented in this workshop.
Chris Leakey (NatureScot) chaired the online workshop activities, providing an introductory statement, introducing speakers and providing closing key messages.
A2.1 Morning Presentations
Ruth Mathews was selected as our keynote speaker for this event (Figure A2.1). Ruth has almost three decades of experience in the water sector; she is a Senior Manager at Stockholm International Water Institute and the Secretariat for the Source to Sea Action Platform, which brings together over 40 global partners with a shared interest and ambition in promoting source to sea action and integrated management around the world. Ruth’s comprehensive keynote introduced the source-to-sea approach (e.g. Figure A2.2). The presentation highlighted that some challenges cannot be solved by one sector, and two dimensions of co-ordination are required: upstream–downstream connections and cross-sectoral co-ordination. We are encouraged to consider which stakeholders will be the beneficiaries, which stakeholders need to make transformative actions, and which stakeholders are enablers for source-to-sea action at a governance level. The impacts and benefits of this approach can flow in both directions, upstream and downstream, for the environment and for people living within it. There are short-term and long-term benefits to be considered with this approach (i.e. ocean health and climate regulation benefits us all). The SIWI source-to-sea readiness diagram (Figure 8 of main report) allowed participants to think about what stage of the journey to holistic management they were at and allowed them to consider what might be required to progress. Ruth highlighted the resources SIWI and the S2S Platform have and encouraged participants to look to these for guidance.
Celeste Kellock (NatureScot intern, from University of Stirling) presented a Scottish policy overview. Within this, a (non-exhaustive) map of strategic policy drivers was presented with an overview of opportunities in cross-cutting, terrestrial, freshwater, coastal and marine strategies and legislation (Figure 2 of main report). The presentation highlighted that we already have many policy drivers that make the connection between the terrestrial and marine environment at a strategic level, with some also articulating the connection via the water environment, but that there is limited progress to implement and operationalise these connections at regional and local levels. To aid this, regulatory tools that not only prevent further degradation of the environment, but that promote positive environmental impacts, would be useful. Currently, there are high level statements but no awareness of implementation mechanisms or tools that help to build the connections required between biophysical flows, departments and sectors. To make the most out of each action and investment (of public and private funds), and to achieve our ambitious climate, biodiversity and societal goals, adopting a holistic view to achieve the system wide benefits is required.
Alex Kinninmonth (Senior Policy Advisor, Marine Directorate), was invited as our case study speaker. The recent Scottish Government Wild Salmon Strategy and Implementation Plan start to take a more holistic view of upstream – downstream connections, as is required for a species that migrates along the marine and freshwater continuum. A brief overview of the lifecycle of Atlantic salmon showcased pressures on Atlantic salmon at various stages throughout this continuum (see Figure A1.2 in Annex 1). Wild salmon are a well-recognised and protected species through the Habitats Directive, with seventeen Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) for Atlantic salmon in Scotland, reflecting their status as an OSPAR threatened and declining species. The Wild Salmon Strategy is well along the source to sea readiness levels (as defined in the earlier SIWI presentation), but it is acknowledged that it has not necessarily made connections to the full range of holistic action it could, and is not currently using the term ‘source-to-sea’. For salmon, and other migratory diadromous species, source-to-sea thinking should extend offshore and not just to the adjacent coastal waters. Alex highlighted that Scotland’s Land-use Strategy has coastal and marine chapters that are examples of high-level strategy demonstrating upstream – downstream aspirations for management, which would be good to build upon. Overall, salmon provide a good opportunity to make more source-to-sea links and to discover and promote less obvious benefits across the land-sea interface.
Some interesting questions were posed throughout the morning talks that have encouraged us to consider how regional land-use strategies and partnership may play a role in holistic management, and to dive deeper in to the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy to assess any policy mapping they may have completed.
A2.2 Interactive Sessions
The participants were introduced to their breakout room activity, in which groups discussed the source to sea challenges for a specific flow topic they were assigned: carbon and land use, bacteria and nutrients, water quality and shellfish aquaculture, or micro-plastics and micro-fibres. There were four questions to discuss, with the majority of groups completing three of the four:
- What stakeholders and environments could be affected (positively or negatively) by this flow?
- For this flow are there any key policy drivers or regulations missing?
- What are the challenges to implementing a source-to-sea approach for this flow?
- What would be the priority actions / solutions to overcome these challenges?
The interactive activity stimulated discussions between participants from terrestrial to marine environments across different sectors, providing a good networking opportunity.
Bacteria and nutrients breakout group
The flow of nutrients, within certain parameters, can be beneficial to shellfish aquaculture downstream. Both agriculture and wastewater are sources of excess nutrients from land in freshwater, coastal and marine environments. It should also be noted that run off differs depending on the agricultural use of the land i.e. livestock or crops. On the West coast of Scotland, for example, it is mainly livestock. The soil compaction, structure and management are also important factors to consider and policy drivers to encourage good maintenance of soil structure are currently lacking. Inputs from septic tanks can be hard to include in modelling, but home owners with septic tanks are important stakeholders. SEPA have mapped some septic tanks.
During summer months there can be a significant rise in tourists in shellfish locations, so there can be heightened / accumulating pressures on this environment.
Within the agri-environment schemes you can often gain payments for achieving minimal environmental standards, which send inappropriate signals about good practice. Payments should be made for more impactful actions. Farmers need to be incentivised to collaborate on i.e. riparian woodlands, buffer strips, and these things should be a priority of the new agri-environment schemes to stimulate catchment scale restoration.
Q3 + 4
Wastewater should be considered when appraising nutrient flows, with a year round impact with some spikes related to storm events and combined sewage overflows. To address this, urban planning must be engaged.
Agri-environment schemes for nature-based solutions in coastal environments should be encouraged; we currently have Nitrate Vulnerable Zones, but these are not inclusive of other pollutants.
The need for more examples to promote this approach to policy makers was highlighted; examples included:
- Inner Dundrum Bay (Northern Ireland) which improved fencing to protect riparian habitat from cattle, and installed reed beds.
- International examples of shellfish gardening, saltmarsh restoration (for pollutant trapping and carbon sequestration).
- Riverwoods (a partnership led by Scottish Wildlife Trust) is thinking on a catchment scale about deer management, forestry, rivers, beavers, and promoting nature-based solutions in ways that do not unduly impact agricultural production.
Micro-plastics and micro-fibres breakout group
It is important to consider levers of change at all stages of the process, from manufacturing, to retail, consumers, household technologies, and wastewater treatment. Affected stakeholder groups are also wide ranging, from anglers, to seafood consumers, water-based and coastal recreation, biodiversity and more. Wide-ranging discussion included:
- Companies producing the materials used in clothing; also the plastic pellet/pelleting industry.
- The clothing manufacturers.
- The role of UK Government for washing machine manufacture regulation –and product design, as this is a reserved matter not devolved to Scotland. However, washing machine manufacturers and commercial laundries could also take the initiative themselves.
- France is incorporating new microfibre filters into washing machines by 2025. VIBES Award Europe highlighted a Turkish company for doing this.
- Scottish Water as manager of waste water treatment - a lot of plastics are contained in sludge spread to land.
- The role of farmers and the use of biosolid spreaders, for example.
- Further down the chain there are negative impacts on fish; the transfer of pollutants may be linked to the impacts on angling.
- The general public and awareness raising, particularly regarding attrition from clothing through home laundry and industrial washing, into sewers and through WWTWs (waste water treatment works), plus direct to the water environment through CSO (combined sewage overflow) spills. There are some opportunities for microfibre capture through 'guppy bags' in our washing machines (but is there evidence for the effectiveness of these?). Behaviour change is a huge challenge; end users and point of introduction to water system are important levers for positive change.
- Local Authorities in their litter and waste clearance roles - and beach management - have an interest in influencing sources.
Stronger source-control is required i.e. micro-fibre filters in washing machines; action elsewhere in the world shows it is possible. There should also be opportunities for retro-fitting blue-green infrastructure to reduce diffuse sources of micro-plastics entering the sewage systems. The relative inputs of different sources requires more investigation.
A review of the Urban Waste Water Directive is a key opportunity, as a potential ‘game changer’ in this sector that could be brought into domestic legislation.
Discussion related to policy drivers included:
- Reporting connected to the UK Marine Strategy has a litter indicator which includes microplastics.
- How effective is the Circular Economy Bill in picking up this issue? Current focus is much more on larger plastics, and the only commitment is for secondary reporting for surplus textiles.
- Regulations are missing about washing machines requiring filtration to catch microfibres.
- OSPAR is an important driver, particularly post-Brexit, but how much does it go into the detail of microfibres?
- Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive/ Regulations should be identified as a policy driver; these are due for revision at the EU level, raising questions on whether Scotland chooses to keep pace. This would trigger more work on microplastics and associated monitoring, with potential to for great positive impacts.
- Source control could include more blue-green infrastructures that reduce run-off to sewers and other water courses. Very positive interactions were highlighted, between Scottish Water and Local Authorities with respect to retrofitting Blue-Green Infrastructure, although participants were unclear on the issues around retro-fitting in existing urban areas.
- The UK REACH regulation (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals) should be recognised as a key policy driver for this and other flows.
Currently there is no single piece of legislation that targets micro-plastics. Legislation in place is not holistic and micro-plastics and fibres receive the secondary effect instead of being targeted specifically. It was acknowledged that this can be difficult given the multiple sources.
Evidence issues raised:
- Impacts on human health
- Distribution of microplastics and related toxins in fauna and humans
- The effect on the food chain and ecosystems
- Whether there is enough evidence to inform and drive development of effective legislation
- Car tyres degrading and the breakdown of larger plastics into microplastics were identified as challenges of particular note.
Carbon transport and land use change breakout group
Key stakeholders include:
- The general public
- Land managers and farmers
- Fisheries managers
Policy and incentives for peatland action are reasonably good but there has not been a lot of uptake. Perhaps this has been due to limited communication and accessibility.
There is a lack of research and evidence in the lateral flow of carbon and it is more complex than for nitrogen and phosphorus. We need evidence on:
- Understanding the fate of carbon from land to sea (whether it is lost to the atmosphere or stored in marine sediments; for the latter understanding of its vulnerability to re-release is also important).
- Energy loss associated with carbon movement
Multiple research streams are required to fill these gaps, such as projects specifically on impacts of trawling on shelf organic carbon by NERC. We need to better link policy development with research to ensure good co-ordination.
Land owner and tenant relationship can also be a barrier to restoration. 100% restoration funding may not help overcome issues relating to ownership.
Regarding diffuse pollution, SEPA could consider using more enforcement powers as issues are escalating.
The Peatland Action restoration project is trying to prevent losses of carbon and ensure than information is shared. Challenges exist when trying to deliver the scale of necessary change – there are skills and contractor capacity gaps. We must make it easier for land owners to take up incentives.
We need to address the incoherence in policy or its interpretation e.g. tree planting on peat rich soils whilst trying to restore peatland elsewhere.
Better communication is necessary, to explain the complex linkages to all stakeholders.
It was also noted that erosion is a natural process, and is not always a negative thing, so we should not seek to prevent this altogether.
Water quality and shellfish aquaculture breakout group
Key stakeholders exist in the agriculture and aquaculture sectors.
Discussions involved connecting diffuse sources of nutrients, mainly derived from agriculture, and point-sources (e.g. combined sewage overflows) to negative effects of eutrophication which were being experienced in the downstream coastal ecosystems. In this case, the lower water quality observed in coastal environments was seen to be limiting the use of these spaces for activities such as aquaculture, or in some more extreme cases, could also limit recreational uses.
It was clear that some countries have already explored mechanisms to mitigate the impact of land-users on the related coastal environment. In Denmark, for example, farmers have started funding shellfish farms to clear up the eutrophication stream. This can be used as an example to show that best management practices for reducing nutrient inputs should not only be focused on land-based solutions such as the more efficient use of fertiliser, but should also incorporate marine-based solutions. Amplifying the set of tools available for reaching nutrient reduction targets to the marine environment may also provide additional economic, social and environmental benefits to coastal communities.
Stronger regulations to reduce nutrient runoff from the farming industry is desirable. By imposing stricter targets, it forces industry to search for alternative ways of avoiding impact altogether, and developing solutions for mitigating and offsetting residual impact they would otherwise have on the freshwater, coastal and marine environments.
Acknowledgement within nutrient reduction plans that cultured bivalves are an effective tool for nutrient extraction would be welcomed, and should be included as a best management practice once inputs have otherwise been minimised.
There are possible opportunities for changing the way we classify shellfish production areas. By using eDNA techniques, it may be possible to distinguish between urban and agricultural effluents, leading to a more accurate categorisation of the shellfish that can be produced, and/or its end use or market. In addition to using E.Coli as a proxy for evaluating whether the shellfish is safe for human consumption, we could also monitor the more specific source of the contamination. This may help identify areas that have levels of E.Coli above grade B classification, but where the main source of the runoffs is coming from agricultural runoffs and therefore the present a low risk of norovirus being present. For the bivalve aquaculture sector, this could potentially open up new areas to operate, or perhaps allow their produce to achieve a better classification than it has previously.
The designation of shellfish protected areas was seen to limit the opportunities for the aquaculture industry to expand. If shellfish aquaculture businesses could explore potential production sites beyond the limitations of the specific shellfish designated areas, it may allow for a quicker expansion of the industry.
No structure or policy has been put in place that acknowledges shellfish aquaculture as an effective tool for nutrient extraction. This means that marine-based solutions are left out of mechanisms such as nutrient trading schemes currently evolving to help solve the excess amount of nutrients entering the coastal areas.
There is regarded to be a lack of general awareness regarding how food production on land is impacting food production and environmental condition in the marine and coastal space.
Priority actions discussed:
- Reducing CSO's as these are limiting where shellfish industry can go, particularly with likelihood of climate-driven storm overflows.
- Make new stakeholders aware of emerging businesses opportunities.
- Make the links made between land-use and water quality issues within new marine planning frameworks.
- Take a holistic approach to food production rather than separating different sectors. A fundamental look at food security and sustainability, across land and sea simultaneously, will facilitate conversations that acknowledge the connections between land-based and marine-based food production.
- Consider the role of Regional Economic Partnerships, Regional Land-use Partnerships and Marine Planning Partnerships in sharing coherent policies, monitoring and routes to implementation.
Key takeaways from breakout room sessions
- Consider obvious and less obvious sources of pollution to coastal environments; some may be seasonal, others constant and with differing levels of regulation, but all have an impact.
- Policy drivers could be improved, e.g.
- to encourage good maintenance of soil structure
- to target micro-fibres and microplastics
- to create the toolset required to address multiple flows
- Comprehensive stakeholder maps considering the source to sea actors would be beneficial.
- Amplifying the set of tools available for reaching nutrient reduction targets to the marine environment can have system wide benefits, especially for coastal communities.
- Agri-environment scheme payments should require more than the minimum environmental standards and there should be more money and less competition for funds that actively encourage improving nature and the environment.
- We need to support and incentivise farmers to use their land for nature-based solutions that provide upstream – downstream benefits.
- Supporting regulations need to be targeted and be built on a good evidence base.
A2.3 Panel Discussion
A panel session with Dr Matthew Service, Dr Janet Khan, Mads Fischer-Moller and Ruth Mathews provided examples their work that has taken a source-to-sea approach, and was chaired by Cathy Tilbrook (NatureScot) (Figure A2.3).
Matthew Service (AFBI) summarised several projects that have started looking at management of shellfish aquaculture in the context of upstream pressures. They then developed a modelling framework of nutrients for a Shellfish Framework which links up with wastewater industry, bathing waters, and shellfish aquaculture water classifications. Coupled ecosystem models are now being used in wastewater industry and this is slowly being implemented in agriculture settings.
Some pilot investment is occurring. Industries are interested in offsetting through carbon and nutrient credits. Buy-in from policy and stakeholders is possible, and they can come with economic benefits. Having viable demonstrator projects is crucial to gain support.
It was stressed that we need to start thinking of food production more holistically (across land and sea), and the role of catchment management in providing food production – both aquaculture and agriculture.
Janet Khan (SEPA) provided an example of bathing water improvement which highlighted the need for effective partnerships. In this case Keep Scotland Beautiful and local authorities were key in tackling a water quality issue rooted in the management of pet and wild bird faeces.
Mads Fischer-Moller (WWF Scotland) proposed that we should farm differently, considering habitat restoration for resilient ecosystems. We need to have high quality models for nutrient and agriculture and think about the circularity of biophysical flows. Incentives are needed for agriculture to care about downstream impacts. For example, in Denmark, agriculture will be heavily taxed if they don’t reduce their emissions, so they are keen to explore all options.
Denmark has a lot of inland waters so they need to look at wetlands, cover crops, and the need to turn some areas from agriculture to nature and reduce livestock numbers. A key point is that partnerships can work well if enabled without being forced upon the business sectors; a sense of urgency is necessary but needs to be delicately handled. It was also noted that we can use shellfish to showcase our water quality.
Ruth Mathews (SIWI) used an Ethiopian example where huge amounts of sediment were being transported in to Lake Hawassa. They brought together stakeholders and went through the first steps of a source-to-sea approach and drew a lot of knowledge from the local people. In Vietnam, a river basin project focussed on plastic pollution to understand the sources; urban versus rural, and the role of accessible waste management infrastructure.
Discussions from panel questions
How to build the capacity for collaboration beyond the project scale / approach is an important challenge. This can be difficult to do, but ensuring there is local ownership and ambition is an essential factor.
We discussed the relative importance of different barriers, including institutional differences in government. In Scotland, we don’t have rivers that span international borders – so coordination should be relatively easy (e.g. compared to Mekong River Basin that is split between six countries) but challenges remain. We also all have a tendency to be comfortable in our knowledge range and departmental and disciplinary silos. This requires a change in behaviour at all levels. The time and resources for coordination is often not built in to the current system. This is why a top – down approach stating that people need to come together to discuss this can be useful as it provides time, opportunity and resources. How municipalities can link up outside their jurisdiction can also be important. Even within the same agency, people are not always talking to one another enough.
The need for inclusion of the private sector and local businesses is clear. Barriers can fall when stakeholders see that there is an economic benefit and societal benefit. Bringing people out of silos requires communication in accessible language.
There is never enough evidence (or at least the desire for more evidence is always great), so the evidence that we do have needs to be well used and effectively communicated. You can have evidence base and experiential bases. Being inclusive of different types of knowledge is important, with there are different types of experts to bring in to the conversation.
Various links and information were shared via the online chat throughout the Workshop, which are detailed here:
The Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management was identified in relation to the keynote presentation, highlighting some of the steps that Sweden have taken to improve links between their freshwater and marine departments within government.
Some examples of source-to-sea issues were proposed:
- The return of nano and micro-plastics to us in the food chain, having entered the ocean via rivers.
- Waste from hill farm glamping pods upstream from beaches and bathing waters (Solway)
Plastic Flows – relevant conversation and documents
A range of projects and papers from Marine Conservation Society (MCS) were highlighted, of interest to the discussion going forwards e.g. MCS Policy Position on Primary Microplastics (2021). MCS also have a Good Fish Guide but data is not yet sophisticated enough to include consideration of the degree of plastic contamination. A recent paper by Rendell-Bhatti et al. (2023) about microplastic contamination in lamprey was highlighted.
Ecological modelling and nutrients – links and documents shared
- Ferreira et al. (2021a) - Development and application of an ecological modelling framework for Inner Dundrum Bay
- Ferreira et al. (2022) - Ease Book - a key tool for relating drivers, pressure, and state.
- Ferreira et al. (2021b) - Report & white paper on framework for a nutrient credit trading policy for Europe, integrating shellfish producers.
- SMILE Sustainable Mariculture in Northern Irish Lough Ecosystems
Scottish Environment LINKs From Rhetoric to Reality: Revisited.
Regulation relevant to Microplastics, which is now being translated into UK legislation: Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) as regards synthetic polymer micro-particles.
SEPA and Scottish Water One Planet Choices framework in development.
Room 1 – nutrients and bacteria
No chat notes.
Room 2 – microplastics/fibres
No chat notes.
Room 3 – carbon transport and land use
Carbon flowing in to water has a cost to society, e.g. Rickson et al (2019), Stahl (2012).
LOCATE project relevant publications:
- Anderson et al. (2019) - Unified concepts for understanding and modelling turnover of dissolved organic matter from freshwaters to the ocean: the UniDOM model
- Garcia-Martin et al. (2021) - Contrasting Estuarine Processing of Dissolved Organic Matter Derived From Natural and Human‐Impacted Landscapes
- UK-CEH’s MERLIN Project: Mainstreaming Ecological Restoration of freshwater-related ecosystems in a Landscape context: INnovation, upscaling and transformation.
Room 4 – water quality and aquaculture
From Denmark, an example was shared on bringing new stakeholders in: Copenhagen City Council has supported oyster and blueshell mussel farming in the harbour of Copenhagen to show internationally how clean and green the city is. This puts the onus on the harbour authority to be much more engaged in its water quality and thus have the city more engaged than it normally would. Similar could definitely be done for Scottish harbour areas.
Adaptive and active management of shellfish would be helpful. See Malham et al. (2023) report on Developing an Assurance Scheme for Shellfish and Human Health (DASSHH).
A2.5 Key Messages from Workshop 1
Principles of source-to-sea
- There are two dimensions to source to sea co-ordination
- Upstream – downstream connections and biophysical flows
- A holistic approach facilitates cross-sectoral collaboration which is essential to overcome fragmented institutional and governance systems and to progress from siloed working.
- We do not have to design the approach from first principles; existing guidance is available from the global Source to Sea Action Platform.
- To achieve our Net Zero and Biodiversity goals we must ensure that we achieve the most from each action and investment we make. This can be done through taking a holistic approach and considering system wide benefits of upstream and downstream actions.
- Holistic management not only requires a change in approach, and a review of necessary skills, but a change in mind-set. We must work with nature and with one another. Nature-based solutions and collaboration will play key roles in achieving this.
Opportunities in policy and regulation
- There are several cross-cutting Scottish policies and strategies that span across terrestrial to marine environments. Challenges lie in the implementation of high-level statements and aims. Policy drivers often recognise connectivity at a strategic level but could be much more explicit in their language and objectives to help drive connections across environmental and cross-sectoral systems. There is therefore opportunity for each of these drivers to promote more holistic management. Recent cross-cutting drivers, such as the Wild Salmon Strategy, and the forthcoming Flooding Strategy and the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and its Implementation Plans, present some progress on developing stronger connections between terrestrial–freshwater-coastal-marine flows.
- From the Workshop we established that regulatory mechanisms could be improved so that they not only discourage negative impacts on the environment, but also deliver positive impacts on the environment. In particular, we identified that better policy drivers are required to encourage improved soil maintenance, to target micro-fibres and micro-plastics, to accelerate ecosystem restoration and recovery, and to create the required toolset to address multiple flows.
- We must improve the mechanisms for implementation of policies that link the marine and terrestrial planning and environmental management systems, facilitating better policy integration across the land-sea interface. Updates to marine and terrestrial plans and polices present an opportunity to highlight the links and collaboration required for holistic action and shared outcomes. Increased consideration of flows from land to sea and vice versa is an important part of this, without which externalities within the remit of one plan may undermine the objectives of another plan. Regional Marine Planning Partnerships, Local Authorities and Regional Land Use Partnerships should develop a collaborative approach to find synergies and work towards common goals i.e. a sustainable food system.
Creating opportunities for partnerships
- Source-to-sea management does not solely rely on top-down governance. Holistic management can be bottom-up and come from the middle. We have the ability to create and utilise existing tools to strengthen our understanding of land to sea flows and consider public and private funding mechanisms for projects. Proof-of-concept and building a critical mass of ambition will be met by enabling government policy.
- Adopting a holistic approach enables more efficient environmental management and should not add significantly to current workloads. Some sectors and flows have greater challenges to overcome than others in the face of climate change and anthropogenic disturbance, but progress can and has been made. Collaboration is key to realising synergies and sharing skills and tools.
- There are communication mechanisms that operate well within siloed groups, but these do not currently extend beyond the artificial system boundaries.
Research and innovation
- Data, evidence and methodology gaps exist in scientific and social research across land to sea flows and impacts. However, we can also discover different ways to use and connect existing dataset. Marine and terrestrial datasets rarely communicate. Through collaboration, we can support scientific advances in necessary areas. Many flows from land to sea are natural (carbon, nutrients, water) but we have altered some of these flows to a level that harms the environment. We must understand the necessary balance, and recent advances in robust modelling of flow scenarios will help with this.
- Technical innovation and circular business design are key to designing out the problems at the source. Source control i.e. washing machines designed to capture micro-fibres to prevent their flow downstream in to rivers, estuaries and marine environments. Waste needs to be viewed a resource that can be used in the system again and traded between businesses. Innovative solutions can facilitate the incorporation of circularity in to business models.
A3. Annex 3 - Workshop 2 report
Source to Sea
WORKSHOP 2 REPORT
On 31.03.2023 we held a full day in person workshop at Edinburgh Climate Change Institute 0945 – 1600. There were 48 participants, at least half of which had attended out first online workshop, and many new attendees. Participants covered several government departments and policy specialisms; Agriculture Rural Economy, Marine Climate Change, Water Environment, Marine Invasive species, Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, Partnerships, and Scottish Forestry, as well as other public and charitable bodies and academic organisations. Despite attempts to engage the private sector (particularly on green finance), they were under-represented; future engagement should seek to involve the private sector, perhaps with themed entry points more targeted to their immediate interests (e.g. farming, estate management, freshwater fisheries, recreation, aquaculture).
A3.1 Morning Presentations
Professor Des Thompson (Principal Advisor on Biodiversity and Science, NatureScot), was the compère for this event, introducing the day’s proceedings.
Following this, Celeste Kellock presented Key messages from source-to-sea workshop 1.
This presentation gave those who did not attend Workshop 1 a flavour of the content and the key messages extracted from the online meeting (Figure A3.1). Four topics were covered;
- Source to Sea; what, why how?
- Opportunities in policy and regulation
- Creating opportunities for partnerships
- Research and innovation
For full content information please refer to Key messages from Workshop 1 document. Discussions following this presentation were based on the challenges that can be faced when trying to implement a more holistic approach and the role that Regional Land Use Partnerships (RLUPs) could play in implementing a source-to-sea approach.
Keynote speaker Professor Mathew Williams (Chief Scientific Advisor for Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture for the Scottish Government), highlighted the importance of water in connecting all environments and systems on earth (Figure A3.2). The nitrogen cycle across terrestrial, marine and atmospheric systems, and how the hydrological cycle is critical in connecting these environments, provided a pertinent example. In particular, water connects across our goals from:
- Net zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045
- Climate change adaptation
- Halting biodiversity loss by 2030 and reversing it by 2045
International examples demonstrated the pressure that water pollution is putting on our environment, and the social and biodiversity implications of our current approach.
Science and policy solutions were posed:
- Research designed around policy
- Improved monitoring of policy impact
- Co-development, socio-economic solutions
To fill some of the data gaps that we have (i.e. freshwater evidence), technological solutions could be used, i.e. LiDAR for measuring the extent and condition of Scotland’s natural assets. In particular, modern LiDAR and 3d imaging will have useful applications for understanding water flow, biodiversity, hydrological processes, and repeated surveys will be key for monitoring progress. Science has a key role to play from source to sea, including:
- Decision making: Systems modelling, linking multiple policy areas
- Policy linked to place: Topographic mapping (LiDAR) to support risk assessment, policy/activity monitoring
- Policy Assessment: Monitoring biodiversity and pressures
- Adaptation: Identify climate risks and responses
- Connect: science to government, and to businesses, to co-develop solutions
A further key message from the keynote address was that scientific models can help join pieces of the source-to-sea system and disparate stakeholders and governance processes together with systems thinking
The Q+A following the keynote address highlighted:
- There is work to be done on getting science into policy and implementation mechanisms related to agricultural reform and payment systems
- We need to join up data sets between different models, e.g. hydrological, water quality and flood risk across land, freshwater, estuaries and coastal seas.
- We need to match the urgency of the climate and nature crises with an inevitably iterative and adaptive approach, making immediate progress but accommodating future advances in knowledge and experience. We cannot afford to wait for perfect information.
- Many people have been grappling with some of these issues for a long time. Working at the catchment scale, understanding flows, reflecting place-based specifics and being able to ‘see ourselves’ in that system is where a source-to-sea framing can help.
- We need to test whether this is a framing that engages the public, politicians and others in positions of power – is it a hook for understanding, action and raised ambition?
- A place based approach will be important, to stimulate community action, but also for businesses embedded within communities.
A3.2 Panel Discussion – The multiple benefits of source-to-sea action
Professor Des Thompson provided an introductory presentation on the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (SBS) to 2045.
The SBS aims to contribute to a new and inclusive approach for nature (see Figure A1.1 in Annex 1). The nature-climate crisis presents a triple threat / challenge:
- Transition to a net zero economy, with emphasis on a Just Transition
- Adapt to climate change
- Halt loss of biodiversity by 2030 by tackling the main drivers
In December 2022 the draft Scottish Biodiversity Strategy was released [the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy to 2045 has been published since this event]; delivery plans are now being prepared. These should link to the Natural Environment (Scotland) Bill, which will provide an overarching framework.
The SBS sets out 33 priority action to help achieve the following:
- Accelerate restoration and regeneration
- Expand and connect protected areas, improving condition
- Support nature-friendly farming, fishing and forestry
- Recover and protect vulnerable and important species
- Generate the investment needed to support nature recovery
Some priority actions were identified, many that were cross-cutting across land – sea such as, protected areas, nature networks, large-scale nature restoration, invasive non-native species. There was an emphasis on the climate-nature crisis being everyone’s problem – not just governments, encouraging different sectors and organisations to act.
Prof. Thompson then introduced the panellists for the discussion, allowing each up to five minutes to introduce their topic for the panel.
1. Dr Mark Williams (Environmental Regulation and Climate Change Manager, Scottish Water) and Nicola Melville (Senior Specialist Scientist SEPA).
Scottish Water are currently carrying out work in their 23,000 hectares of land holdings, related to Scottish Water’s ‘Net Zero Emissions Roadmap’ and their ‘Biodiversity Report 2020’. Mark highlighted some of the key considerations they use and the importance of understanding the natural capital and biodiversity baseline to truly understand environmental assets and how they may change over time.
A key case study used was Loch Katrine’s Land management plan and how this was developed with Forest Land Scotland. Both organisations are working together to maximise biodiversity and carbon storage benefits, realising the opportunities of working together to achieve a common goal. This large-scale countryside project is only one example of the work Scottish Water are doing, and there are plenty of urban projects being carried out on smaller scales as they work with local authorities, developers and communities to create multi-use spaces for biorentention, attenuation and play.
2. Mads Fischer-Moller (Food Policy Advisor, WWF).
Mads brought knowledge and experiences from his previous role in Nordic countries to provide examples of approaches in other countries. Public surveys have indicated that Scottish people care about nature, but often do not notice the decline in biodiversity and environmental condition, so we need to rethink how we engage people and make space for nature in society. Nordic countries, in particular Denmark, have achieved a 40% reduction in nitrogen leakage since 1990 through tightening regulation on agriculture. Despite this, over the last 10 years further progress has slowed and challenges remain; this is thought to be due to a lack of mind-set and societal change, something regulation does not bring. To improve water quality and leakage reductions different approaches that embrace systems thinking are now being taken, e.g.:
- A reduction in farming on low-lying soils
- Afforestation of some agricultural areas
- Mussel farming
- Seagrass restoration
The latter two measures highlight the connection between the land and sea and how upstream – downstream actors can work together to improve water quality and conditions, avoiding and minimising excess inputs from land, and mitigating residual nutrient enrichment that does reach the sea with the help of ecosystem services provided nature-based solutions and aquaculture.
Recommendations were suggested for how this could be adapted to Scotland:
- Include water quality targets in agricultural legislation, with monitoring requirements
- Clear targets for water quality in Natural Environment Legislation
- Explore cross-synergies, importantly for Climate Change mitigation
- Where possible, employ mitigation measures on a systems-level which will require political and business leadership.
- Catchment scale nutrient budgets
3. Dr Clive Mitchell (Strategic Resource Manager: Nature and Climate, NatureScot).
The scene with the global importance of soils in the carbon cycle, taking us back to the evolution of the leaf and the importance of wet environments and natural floodplains and channels. Mis-management of soils and water to create drier systems has resulted in an imbalance of many natural processes, including the carbon cycle, exacerbating climate change and the effects of it.
The climate-nature crisis presents a triple challenge; we must transition to a net-zero economy, manage climate risks (adapt and mitigate) and enhance the state of nature. If we continue to miss land-use emissions-reduction targets, we cannot effectively manage climate risks and increase resilience. We will then be increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which will undoubtedly disproportionately affect the poor. To improve our chances at climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience, we must look to change the way we use and manage nature (see Figure 1 of main report). The climate-nature crises are connected, we either solve both, or neither.
4. Heather McLaughlin (Campaigns Co-ordinator: Litter and LEQ, Keep Scotland Beautiful).
We are in the midst of a litter emergency, with over 80% of marine litter coming from the land. Keep Scotland Beautiful’s ‘Upstream Battle’ campaign was launched in October 2018. It raises awareness of litter issues, gathers evidence on the extent of the challenge and inspires action across communities, public and private sectors. Through this campaign they have developed ‘anchor groups’ as focal points for engagement and participation, mobilised citizen science and developed a comprehensive education programme on litter. They have used two major catchments – the Tay and the Clyde – to collect data to establish the different sources of litter and the public’s perception of this. Surveying the upstream – downstream links of litter in the Clyde required engaging seven local authorities, completing 49 upstream battle surveys, counting 7000 items of litter and categorising them.
The panel discussion (Figure A3.3) highlighted the need for more illustrative examples / pilot projects of source-to-sea thinking in practice. A natural capital approach can help us ‘value’ our environmental assets in the broadest sense (i.e. including social and cultural benefits); evaluate how the assets and their benefits will change can then inspire and inform efforts to managed, mitigate and improve the situation. The interconnected nature of the challenge, across land-freshwater-marine environments, necessitates an integrated systems approach.
Water will be impacted at many different scales throughout catchments and nationally, so we need to address different scales of water body to ensure we care for biodiversity, water quality and the aesthetic/recreational appeal of blue space. Linked to both water and biodiversity are our food systems, both land-based agriculture and seafood (catching and growing sectors). Modernising our food systems should incorporate an understanding of flows from land to sea that can cause environmental deterioration and potentially undermine efforts to improve the sustainability of our food systems. The soil system, its integrity and its strong relationship with outcomes for climate, nature and water quality was particularly highlighted, having been somewhat neglected in policy, regulation and land-management.
Participants stressed that we have lacked well-illustrated public facing examples of nature’s decline in the UK until the recent BBC Wild Isles series that has engaged the country on environmental issues closer to home. This may be a Launchpad for further engagement opportunities with the public about the state of nature and what we can do.
Across speakers and audience contributions, it shone through that a systems approach coordinating disparate disciplines of science, policy and environmental management practices will be necessary to halt nature decline, and that solving the climate and nature crises must be done in tandem.
A3.3 Interactive Session - Session 2 - Solutions to promote source-to-sea action
Groups focussed on one of three flows: carbon and nutrients, contamination and litter, water flow. The flow themes of carbon and nutrients, and contamination and litter, were carried on from Workshop 1; each of these themes had two groups assigned to them. The fifth group focussed on water flow, a theme that developed from recognition that water itself (floods and droughts) should be given targeted discussion.
Groups were presented with generalised desirable outcomes (based on existing strategies and commitments) and assigned three questions:
- What are the solutions to reach the desired outcomes?
- What high level strategies and policy drivers can these solutions contribute to? (a pre-prepared list of policy drivers / strategies was provided)
- How do these solutions benefit society, economy, and environment (more widely)?
The notes below present a summary of points made during the discussion of ‘solutions’. Inevitably, conversation strayed at times, often into other useful discussions that provided a link to later discussion of challenges and enablers. Matters raised are retained here as a record of discussions.
Question 1 - What are the solutions to reach the desired outcomes?
We discussed solutions for implementing more holistic management in Scotland and looked across several themes: nature based solutions, technical and innovation, regulatory, behaviour change and circularity.
Carbon and nutrients
This breakout theme was supported in facilitation and scribing by Cathy Tilbrook (NatureScot), Christian Schroeder (University of Striling), Karen Ramoo (NatureScot), Lucian Fernandez-Slade (NatureScot). An example of group work is shown in Figure A3.4.
Nature based solutions
- Introducing more trophic levels on land and in coastal and marine environments through the reintroduction and recovery of predators.
- Consider shellfish and seaweed cultivation that makes use of nutrient waste from food production. We need to provide pilot studies and evidence of the benefits and profitability of multi-trophic and regenerative agriculture and aquaculture.
- Upstream / terrestrial environments can control water and nutrient flow downstream, which can aid or hinder production in coastal and marine ecosystems. Land-sea connections in our food systems should be a fundamental environmental management issue. Resources such as seaweed can uptake certain amounts of nutrient run off; seaweed can be used as food, fertiliser and in other products, but the upstream conditions have to work in harmony for system-wide outcomes.
- Restoring and protecting marine, coastal and lowland habitats, such as biogenic reefs, seagrass, saltmarsh and wetlands, can provide multiple benefits such as coastal defence, flood management, nutrient and contaminant uptake, and carbon storage.
- Urban surface water management through more blue and green spaces, for example community allotments, riparian habitat buffers, SUDS and other semi-natural solutions.
- Geoengineering of semi-natural habitats or simulation of natural processes in built infrastructure.
- Focus on catchment and place-based management
- Accessible modelling tools are required for nutrient budgeting between upstream and downstream environments.
- Data across terrestrial to marine systems should be better linked and contribute towards monitoring systems across land-freshwater-coastal-marine systems.
- More efficient bioreactors.
- Identify the pressures and ensure indicators developed incorporate the effects of climate change.
- Integration and standardisation of high quality data to enable robust monitoring and allow for modelling of impacts and/or solutions.
- LiDAR coverage for coastal and marine environments will be important.
- Consider who hosts these terrestrial-freshwater-coastal-marine datasets: they should be in one place and easy to access. This digital infrastructure is fundamental to o developing connected solutions.
- Regulations to promote a circular model for wastewater treatment facilities. Transitioning from viewing nutrients as ‘waste’ to as a ‘resource’. For example, chemical fertilisers could be regulated to contain a minimum percentage of recycled nitrogen. This has been done in Denmark.
- Nitrogen flows in agriculture could include rules on green cover-cropping, for example.
- Moving from static inventories of blue carbon, to monitoring of blue carbon sequestration and storage characteristics, could lead to further investment in restoration. There has been success with this in peatlands.
- Enforce regulation to deliver on existing targets.
- Financial incentives for nutrient recovery – denitrification wastes resource – and we need investment to implement nutrient recovery.
- A top level government statement on nitrogen set out ambitions on nitrogen waste. Target 7 of COP15 was not agreed upon, but there remains an opportunity for Scotland to take the ambition forward.
- A national nitrogen action plan could search for co-benefits and regulatory solutions.
- Management requirements for anaerobic digestion, including but not limited to methane.
- Build accountability for terrestrial and upstream actors affecting the condition of downstream and marine environments
- Labelling/standards/accreditation schemes which give value to the source to sea approach – the red tractor scheme was given as an example
- Price is often a strong mechanism for changing behaviour. Water metres are crucial to help stop wasting water.
- Shift consumer behaviour from less sustainable meat or finfish aquaculture towards more sustainable alternatives (e.g. mussels).
- Increase awareness of the source of carbon and nutrient imbalances and the underpinning day-to-day human choices across the land to sea continuum.
- Improve consumer awareness by introducing labelling of products that contain (or have used) more pollutants – aim to incentivise reduced consumption of domestic products contributing to nutrient/pollution budgets.
- Help consumers appreciate product quality and its alignment with environmental sustainability and health outcomes, helping shift consumers demands to ‘less but better’.
- Make urban environments greener – allotments can improve understanding around seasonal production and connect people with the food they eat.
- Change focus from peat and carbon towards other areas, including issues often seen as less important, such as management of micronutrients.
- Try to change traditional views and structures through collaboration and bringing together stakeholders with different interests, i.e. farmers, fishers, conservationists. Look at catchments as food production units.
- Businesses and the private sector must deliver against identified targets. We should showcase businesses that are doing well; good practice should be rewarded.
- Focus on transitioning from ‘waste to ‘resource’, particularly focused on recycling nutrients. Most of the examples of circularity are embedded within solutions that fall under the other categories.
Contamination and litter
This breakout theme was supported in facilitation and scribing by Nicola Melville (SEPA), Clive Mitchell (NatureScot), Scot Mathieson (SEPA), Sinead Sheridan (NatureScot).
Nature based solutions
- Multi trophic agriculture, regenerative agriculture incorporating agro-forestry
- Show the evidence of wildlife-friendly farming and its profitability
- Blue carbon restoration, e.g. seagrass, native oysters, mussel culture, looking for multi-functional delivery and local benefits
- Individual projects in restoration need to have a strategic connection to broader scale outcomes
- A guide explaining different types of nature-based solutions, the benefits, how to implement, timescales and costs would be beneficial for engineers and practitioners. Trial and error approaches can be challenging and damage sector ambitions.
- Some contamination / litter will get through the system, so how can we effectively process this? For example, restored native oyster beds are processing 5% of waste discharged from the distillery in DEEP project (Dornoch Firth).
- Ensure supply chain is in place for nature-based solutions i.e. native oyster spat availability
- Use natural and semi-natural habitats to create a physical barrier / trap to contaminants and litter between land and sea.
- eDNA techniques offers great opportunities to track disease and invasive non-native species in waste water
- Tailored solutions for individual farms, based on their practices and the needs of and risks to local and downstream environments
- Technical knowledge of pests and diseases can help avoid defaulting to maximum doses of treatments, and thereby provide some source control.
- Fertiliser is an expensive commodity; develop and commercialise seed treatment that only activates once the seed germinates.
- Need innovation in agricultural and other land-management practices, which can be driven by high fuel/fertiliser costs.
- The cost of business as usual and the costs of change needs to be calculated. Who bears any increased costs needs to be established.
- Evaluate the data and intelligence needs of engineers in 20 years’ time, to be able to mitigate impacts under future climate scenarios i.e. advanced real-time rainfall gauging in the urban environment.
- Utilise drone enthusiasts for citizen science and monitoring. Use different remote sensing monitoring approaches to compare, contrast and identify status/quality of habitats.
- Retro-fit water systems in houses and businesses to use grey water (capturing first flush) for toilet systems and implement slow trickle drains.
- Polluter pays principle provides incentive to reduce pollution. Can we reinvigorate in our legislation? Establish and incorporate costs of failure to act.
- An obligation to build in circular economy principles, including in procurement.
- Plastic pellet regulation is in development, to reduce losses from industrial producers of plastic pellets.
- There is a mis-match between drinking water quality standards and environmental standards coming through RBMP (River Basin Management Planning). The environmental bar can be considered as set too low.
- Provide premium payments / accreditation system for those growing food / meat that incorporate nature-based solutions in to food model.
- Ensure that all parties receive economic gain in a source-to-sea model, i.e. whiskey businesses and the mussel and oyster farmers providing the nature-based solutions.
- Further efforts on normalising removal of waste - taking your waste away with you, picking up litter and disposing of responsibly.
- A big shift in behaviour (consumers, retailers and suppliers) around packaging. At the consumer end, people need help to better understand better what can recycled.
- Mandatory charges on certain goods, i.e. disposable coffee cups
- Link consumption and waste patterns with ecosystem resilience (i.e. better communicate outcomes of IPBES work on indirect drivers of biodiversity loss)
- Move away from short term fixes and communicate the long-term scale of economic and social investments. We may not see benefits for 25 years, and in urban environments this is harder for individuals to accept.
- Investments should be based on building resilience instead of reactive spending.
- Place-based approaches that recognise the different challenges locations face.
- Consistent segregation of waste/ by-products, encouraging public confidence that recycling is actually happening (countering media reports of poor implementation in recycling centres).
- Reinvigorate producer responsibility requirements in the context of current circular economy thinking.
- Extend producer responsibility, e.g. certified recycling.
- Local recycling of fishing nets and gear, linking to a behaviour change that encourages fishers to donate spent/damaged nets.
- Work with businesses, innovators and investors to move waste up the value chain.
This breakout theme was supported in facilitation and scribing by Celeste Kellock (NatureScot, University of Stirling) and Chris Leakey (NatureScot).
Nature based solutions
- There are lots of opportunities for habitat restoration and for more semi-natural green infrastructure solutions to help manage water flows.
- Nature Networks could help better connect these solutions too, along with the multiple benefits they can contribute to, but will Nature Networks’ have teeth in the protection they provide?
- More blue areas in inland and urban environments, and the use of flat roofs for green spaces where ground-level space is at a premium
- Digitising and real-time data for adaptive management (e.g. digital twins and Internet-of-things technology), e.g.:
- To help farmers improve resource efficiency, including water
- Combined sewage overflows and the sewage industry generally – data is often the big challenge – knowing when and where the problem is, and then being able to respond quickly
- Of low-flow events
- Modernising septic tanks and water treatment facilities
- Innovations for water efficiencies at home and work (e.g. “we flush our toilets with drinking water”), including retro-fitting solutions
- Economic and governance systems innovation to recognise and reflect the value of nature (natural capital approaches to decision-making and green investment), and place-based needs/opportunities
- Small water bodies are really important in controlling water flows (and other flows) but are generally excluded from major reporting and regulatory processes (e.g. WFD/RBMP) which don’t look at that granular detail that is necessary to increase resilience
- Provisions already exist to allow more natural flooding but the provision is poorly used (is this a funding issue?). This needs attention through Climate Ready Scotland (Climate Adaptation Programme by Scottish Government)
- There should be lots of regulatory opportunities via new agri-environment schemes
- Statutory targets and action around pipeline leakage
- There is emerging new policy in terrestrial planning on ‘Positive effects for biodiversity’, with similar policy likely to follow for marine planning. There could be regulated standards within the measures set out for development.
- Building standards for water efficiency
- There is a need for nature-based education, to connect nature-based solutions to behavioural outcomes, for added value and legacy of impact in future generations
- Inform and educate about dry SUDS – they are meant to flood!
- Co-development of solutions (any solutions) with communities and stakeholders can help to shift understanding and attitudes that can ease the pathway for new regulation or policy.
- People only discuss flooding when it’s happening – but we need to engage and stimulate change and readiness before there is a crisis
- Promote more efficient and sustainable water use in households, at workplaces and public buildings.
- Irrigation pools in agriculture to ensure that water can be collected and utilised accordingly throughout different seasons. This could help with flood or drought prevention elsewhere in the system.
- Provide guidance and advice for circular water management and effective water storage. There will be place-based solutions for this.
- Is there a role that pumped hydro can play in the storage of water (as well as the energy storage, for which they are primarily designed)? There are likely pro’s and con’s from the need for pumped hydro.
- SUDS must be improved so that they create multiple benefits for the environment and society. This will require behaviour change from the public and developers.
- Create and incentivise markets for waste.
Common solutions across the different flows
- Multi-trophic agriculture and regenerative agriculture
- Blue carbon restoration and monitoring
- Better communication across sectors, organisations and communities
- Place-based approach to implementing solutions
- Create and incentivise markets for waste
- Campaigns to highlight where our food as come from and the system-wide benefits it provides. Certification or labelling would be beneficial.
- Connect existing terrestrial and marine datasets
- Provide guidance on NBS – what methods to use, where best to use them, how to implement them.
Question 2 - What high level strategies and policy drivers can these solutions contribute to?
There was a consensus that all of the policy drivers provided were cross cutting and applied to the flows. Some additions could be made to the list, particularly regarding carbon and nutrient flows:
- Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill
- Scottish Forestry Strategy
- Curriculum for Excellence (Education)
- Climate Change Act (Scotland) 2009
- Scotland’s Climate Change Plan 2018-2032
- Scotland’s Climate Adaptation Programme (Climate Ready Scotland)
- National Marine Plan 2 (aspirational inclusion, as it is under development)
- UK Forestry Standard
A need of an environmental monitoring strategy that accommodates source-to-sea flows was discussed, with homogenised and effective data collection that works across the different strategies (e.g. monitoring standards established from the Water Framework Directive can provide a framework for some aspects of this).
Three of the main drivers for carbon and nutrients were identified as Climate Change Act, forthcoming agriculture legislation (2024), and the (pre-Brexit) Water Framework Directive (WFD; delivered domestically through River Basin Management Planning). There should be a focus on using these policies as vehicles for reaching solutions, as they are seen as capable of unlocking the most positive outcomes; importantly, this is not necessarily on the basis of believing that they are the most suitable, but because that’s where most of the money and attention is already directed.
The WFD (and therefore RBMP process) is seen as particularly influential as it is brought many aspects together, with many policies and regulatory tools are connected to it. It provides a central point for data flows, also serves to help standardise monitoring (more resource efficient).
Regarding water flow, it was discussed that there was a hierarchy and dependencies between some of the identified policy drivers. It was noted that the Place Principle should be at the top / centre as many solutions must be place orientated. It is also worth considering that there are UK level strategies and Acts that cover issues that aren’t devolved to Scotland, and also global and local level policy drivers that could be considered here as well.
- There are potential tensions between different land use sectors (i.e. agriculture and forestry) but at the moment we don’t have the mechanisms to enable these different sectors to speak with one another
- Regional Land Use Partnerships present a significant opportunity for stimulating shifts in strategic approaches and attitude shift amongst key stakeholders, but it was felt that they are significantly underfunded. Some thought that it might be difficult to tie the RLUPs and RMPPs (Regional Marine Planning Partnerships, which also have a funding challenge) together, but that alongside more funding, RLUPs could have stronger, clearer objectives that accommodate source-to-sea ambitions.
- The agri-environment scheme was identified as having some mechanisms within it which could deliver against objectives useful to Source to Sea but it was highlighted that these generally require a project officer to facilitate and deliver them.
- The importance of having a dedicated centre of experts who work together was highlighted, as otherwise there can be competition between researchers and that can be unhelpful. CREW (the Centre of Expertise for Waters) is an example of an important collective to approach with specific questions and/or identified areas of research need, which is valuable for driving policy forward and ensuring the development of appropriate guidance that translates policy into implementation and outcomes.
- Could it be more optimal to have strict regulations, such as requiring all water treatment plants built in Scotland to have a nutrient recovery system?
Question 3 - How do these solutions benefit society, economy, and environment?
These notes have been pooled across all three flow themes, the repetition and overlap between themes being indicative of the multiple benefits and synergies to be found.
- Achieving a successful sustainable nitrogen strategy was seen to achieving multiple benefits: water quality, air quality, higher and more diverse ecosystems, healthier soils.
- Wider benefits on key/threatened habitats are important (but it is important that we collectively identify and deliberately work towards these)
- Solutions relating to behaviour change, in particular those leading to a food system transition towards more plant-based diets were also seen to provide multiple benefits: healthier societies, more-efficient land-use, increased biodiversity, water security.
- The improvement of water quality overall was strongly linked to mental and physical wellbeing through increased recreational opportunities and connectedness with nature. This will also benefit the healthcare system (through cost-savings) by providing natural wellbeing help.
- The solutions identified support connections between, and restoration of, biodiversity and nature.
- Place-based solutions provide opportunities to promote cultural benefits of rivers and water bodies.
- A more productive, healthier environment, encourages social and economic benefits through tourism
- Ensuring upstream actions have positive downstream impacts will benefit rural and built environments and communities.
- We need to find a common language and identify where the crossovers are, so that action can be amplified. There is some work to be done in mapping the different strategies and identify opportunities.
- There is a gap in identifying research needs and opportunities.
- Funding mechanism which enables more partnership working would be beneficial
- Long term funding models which allows for longer term delivery and more ambitious outcomes – example of research funding mechanisms in Germany (>5 years) whereas UK funding rarely more than 3 years.
- In order to avoid the need for stricter regulations, collaboration and voluntary action is key.
- So far, little attention appears to be given to the potential impact of run off from land on the policy approach to identifying and monitoring Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs)
- Lack of marine planning as a profession, with no marine planning qualification at any Scottish university or CPD provider
- Who pays for maintenance and running of data repositories, or for increased costs of sifting from business as usual?
- We have two years before the next Scottish parliament election. This is the current window of opportunity to develop a narrative for positive source-to-sea interventions, to help politicians understand the need and opportunities for change. Agencies, NGOs and others can come together to this end.
- It has been identified that strategies and high-level policy for source-to-sea approaches exist in a basic form, but are not yet stimulating sufficient implementation or reversal of negative trends. Something in our approach to policy implementation therefore needs to change (fragmented to holistic).
A3.4 Session 3 - Enabling source-to-sea action
Cathy Tilbrook, Head of Sustainable Coasts and Seas (NatureScot) chaired this session, allowing each speaker to present for up to seven minutes, and answer questions from the audience after their talk.
- Dr Ross Johnston (Head of Natural Capital Policy and Valuation, Scottish Government).
The Scottish Government have a commitment to the natural capital approach and have been making considerable investments in nature based solutions, particularly for peatland restoration and woodland creation. Despite this, there remains a ~£20 billion funding gap for nature for this decade (see Green Finance Institute, 2021). Private investments in nature are increasing, but while public funds tend to be tied to shorter term commitments, private companies often expect longer term commitments and clear measurable outcomes for their reporting and investor confidence. Private organisations run a higher risk of ‘greenwashing’ (perceived or real) and being seen as ‘green lairds’. Companies therefore want to protect their reputation, and we all should be motivated to ensure responsible access to emerging carbon and biodiversity markets (and potential nutrient markets). Overall, there are huge opportunities but also risks in the emergence and growth of green finance mechanisms, but steps are being taken to develop codes, standards and regulations to manage the risks accordingly.
The National Strategy for Economic Transformation sets out aims to establish a ‘values-led, high integrity market for responsible private investment in natural capital’. Woodland and carbon codes are examples of current markets that will continue to adapt and change as science and knowledge progresses in this area. Scotland currently has over 80% of the habitat restoration potential under both codes in the UK, with interest and investment opportunities even where commitments are long term (around 40 years). Private funding is trying to build in some permanence to their investments (i.e. protecting restored habitats to ensure a lasting legacy from investment).
Opportunities and challenges to the source to sea approach were highlighted, including whether source-to-sea is an alignment of policy objectives or a delivery mechanism, and whether we have the financial infrastructure to co-ordinate land-freshwater-marine interactions in private markets.
- Dr Matthew Service (Coastal Zone Science Programme Leader, Agri-Food and Biosciences Institutes (AFBI)).
Examples of source-to-sea thinking in scientific models were shared, showing how they are used in the context of understanding agricultural impacts and guiding management interventions in Northern Ireland. The approach promotes evidence based decision making, identifying and managing pollution sources, and in turn helping to plan shellfish aquaculture and related regulations in coastal seas below the catchments.
Models have enabled the AFBI team to look at the effects of eutrophication on primary production and phytoplankton biomass. Through extensive research and model development, they have developed a carrying capacity assessment that links land use to sea, focussing on the management of coastal aquaculture. This tool is now used for assessing aquaculture licensing application in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland’s coastal waters. Their research examines the origin of bacteria and nutrients within catchments, and the role that shellfish aquaculture can play in removing nitrogen from coastal waters. It was emphasised that shellfish aquaculture will not solve all problems but it can produce significant economic benefits when incorporated in to land-sea management.
Demonstrator projects are key to gaining public and private buy in, with demonstrator projects in Liverpool Bay and Inner Dundrum Bay showing how natural capital and ecosystem assessment approaches can work alongside modelling.
- Dr Nick Wilding (Head of ARE (Agriculture and Rural Economy) Corporate and Organisational Development, Scottish Government).
This talk probed the challenge of generating an institutional and collaborative culture in and between our organisations (within and across all sectors) that can support ambition for a paradigm shift for source-to-sea. Integral to this is storytelling, and the ability to translate the scientific story in to a human story for people across different sectors and organisations to engage with. It was emphasised that this shift in mind-set is not just for public engagement, but for reinvigorating attitudes to our ways of working in our professions, particularly on the existential challenges of the climate and nature crises. The arts can play a large role in communication and we need to invest in creative thinking to engage people and develop the drive for systems change.
- Dr Chris Leakey (NatureScot (former coordinator of MASTS People Ocean Planet (POP) Behavioural Change initiative)).
Chris addressed the topic of large scale behaviour change, and how we might achieve a societal interest and shift towards source-to-sea thinking. Behavioural change encapsulates the ‘journey’ towards tangible behaviour changes (Figure A3.5); very rarely do humans act differently purely on the basis of a newly acquired knowledge. Instead there is usually a need for an emotional or experiential trigger, and the building of good intentions and agency, before these can tip into actual behaviour change. Ideally change is made at all societal levels, from individuals, communities, schools, across different professions and government. Lasting change does begin with knowledge though, and the recent emergence of an Ocean Literacy outcome within Scottish Government’s Blue Economy Vision indicates an intent to influence behavioural change within society and improve our relationship with nature.
We need to identify the tipping point and enablers for societal change. Large-scale change across communities and sectors requires ‘buy-in’ from businesses, society and governance, in no particular order. Individuals need to be motivated and barriers need to be removed to facilitate change, so we must consider how best to trigger societal responses to source-to-sea issues. We need to increase cooperation and collaboration between upstream-downstream actors, across sectors and disciplines to promote more holistic management.
Presentations were followed with the opportunity for the panellists to ask one another and the audience a question. This provided an opportunity for further participation and discussion and the chance for speakers to gain the audiences perspective.
A3.5 Visual Minutes
Throughout the day we had artist, Jenny Capon, producing wonderful visual minutes, capturing key topics, phrases and messages from the day alongside perfectly selected imagery. The completed images displaying key messages and themes from the workshop can be found as Figures 6 and 7 of the main report.
A3.6 Key messages from Workshop 2
- We must address the climate-nature crisis together, or not at all.
- Systems thinking can help us to tackle several objectives; litter, sustainable food systems, delivering necessary water quality and quantity and increasing biodiversity.
- When organisations discover synergies and work together, and communicate well with communities and the public regarding the use of land and water, projects that address the climate – nature crisis can be developed to produce system wide benefits.
Opportunities and enablers to drive change
- Creating harmony between actions in upstream and downstream environments to achieve common goals is crucial and can be delivered by identifying shared environmental pressures and greater cross-sectoral collaboration.
- Pilot / demonstrator projects are key to achieving public and private buy in and can be initiated at local and regional levels by researchers, environmental charities, community groups.
- Behaviour change is central to achieving societal and circular change. Individuals need to be motivated and barriers need to be removed to facilitate change. To do this a common language should be used through different mediums (words, visuals, campaigns, educational resources). We need to increase cooperation and collaboration between upstream-downstream actors, across sectors and disciplines to promote more holistic management.
- Making improvement to the training and qualification structure of marine planning would be an opportunity to embed source-to-sea thinking.
- We need to maximise the inclusion of private and public funds in addressing the climate-nature crisis, ensuring that both are welcome and accessible to the market. There are opportunity and risks in green finance for investors, a collaborative approach to creating structured guidance is necessary to increase investment security and funding options.
- Strategies should support the delivery of connected action and vice versa. It has been identified that strategies and high-level policy for source-to-sea approaches exist in a basic form but are not yet stimulating sufficient implementation or reversal of negative trends. Something in our approach to policy implementation therefore needs to change (fragmented to holistic).
- A source-to-sea approach should be incorporated into new and emerging strategies to maximise implementation and benefits. For example, the new Agricultural Policy and agriculture payments schemes, and enhanced marine protection.
- Before the next Scottish parliament election there is an opportunity to develop a narrative for positive source-to-sea interventions, to help politicians understand the need and opportunities for change. Agencies, NGOs and others can come together to this end.
Research and innovation
- We need to realise connections between existing datasets to maximise their use for holistic solutions. There is a need for efficient and connected data infrastructure, where actors can find datasets across land-freshwater-coastal-marine environments. We need to think about where this could be hosted and who will pay for it.
- Identify the priority research needs across the source to sea continuum.
- Longer term project funding models. In the UK they are often up to 3 years, but funding mechanisms for at least 5 years would be beneficial and could provide time specifically to; translate data in to accessible formats, establish how it can link up with other projects, work with creatives to share data.
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