2nd workshop in South West Devon (Modbury), UK on The Future Landscape of Devon

2016-05-05

Context

South West Devon, an area characterized by mixed agricultural systems of pastures, arable fields and woodlands, is often hailed for being the example of the traditional British cultural landscape of small pastoral fields bounded by the typically British hedgerows. This is a prime reason why the area has been selected as a HERCULES case study area.

Scale enlargement and intensification threaten the hedges that shape the cultural landscape of Devon. Although regulations explicitly forbid removal, the total length of hedgerows in the UK declined with 6% from 1998 to 2007. The two main reasons for this decline are either the total lack of management (upon abandonment) or improper management (upon scale enlargement), such as too frequent cutting, both leading to deterioration of the quality as a habitat for wildlife and the cultural historical value of it.

The key to understanding such a local process of hedgerow decline is often in the knowledge and behavior of local land managers and practitioners. The workshop was organized on 5 May 2016 and aimed to discuss the future of the landscape, present preliminary findings of a landscape modeling study based on academic literature and government reports, and construct a preferred future scenario.

Summary

Stakeholders were consulted during a one-day workshop where we used back casting to identify favourable outcomes of landscape change, using outcomes of an Agent Based Model (ABM) that illustrate how the landscape in Devon could look in 30 years in a Liberalization scenario (LS) and a Conservation scenario (CS). The workshop was attended by 15 participants, ranging from conservation professionals to local farmers. The workshop consisted of three parts:

In a first session, the stakeholders identified the most important landscape functions of South West Devon. We (i.e. Hercules team) first explained eight different landscape functions that we used for this study (see figure 1 for eight functions). After this the stakeholders individually ranked the landscape functions from most important to least important by sticking post-its to posters of the landscape functions. We summarized the results during the break to discuss it later in the third session.

After this exercise we showed and discussed the model outcomes. To feed the discussion we presented preliminary findings of a survey amongst 75 land managers and model results of future hedgerow change in two scenarios: a LS where government subsidies and policies were limited and a CS with more subsidies and market regulation. This discussion was used to validate assumptions made in the landscape change modelling and simultaneously discuss the outcomes of the two scenarios. This session lasted 60 minutes of which 30 were used to present the model and the remainder for discussion.

In a third session, three breakout groups of stakeholders each formulated an own scenario to realize the landscape goals that were set during the first session. Each group of stakeholders presented their suggestions for a scenario of future policy. These scenarios were then discussed with all other stakeholders. A selected scenario, co-designed with the workshop participants, was then parameterized and analysed in the ABM.

Results

The Agent-Based Modeling method proved to be a very useful tool to communicate outcomes and provided a platform for discussion among a diverse group of stakeholders, leading to an integrative negotiation process where definitions and solutions for shared problems could be formulated. Explicitly stating landscape goals helped to integrate the perspectives of different stakeholders and facilitated a structured discussion for future landscape policy. This work found that conservation professionals, local policy makers and land managers all agreed that the hedgerows of Devon are indispensable to the character of the local landscape. They form key habitat corridors for a sustainable population of various unique species while simultaneously forming the quintessential character of the Devon landscape. All stakeholders thought that it was desirable and were willing to conserve these typical features of the Devon landscape. However, in practice, land managers will not be able to maintain current hedgerow quality without financial incentives, leading to further deterioration and even disappearance of hedgerows.

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