Client: Mott Macdonald

Any major road infrastructure development is required to undergo an environmental impact assessment, whose main focus is to determine environmental losses and mitigation measures resulting from the project. The ecosystem services approach, on the other hand, offers a balanced view on the gains or losses of environmental function as a result of human action. At Cranfield, we have carried out a spatially explicit ecosystem services analysis, complimentary to the EIA, to determine the impact of the proposed Northern Norwich Distributor road – a dual carriageway with associated landscaping – on seven different ecosystem services.

We found that despite short term losses of various ecosystem services, the newly created land use classes: woodland, scrubland, and grassland associated with the road, in the long term can lead to an improvement in provision of several essential ecosystem services as compared to mainly agricultural baseline conditions. By doing so we have shown that despite major land conversion and loss of arable production, the road can provide tangible environmental benefits due to inclusion of green infrastructure in the design. This work has led to on-going collaboration with Mott MacDonald centred on incorporation of the ecosystem services approach into every-day practice.

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Publication: Operationalizing the ecosystems approach: Assessing the environmental impact of major infrastructure development