This research project examines how biodiversity in the Wiltshire landscapes contributes to benefits to people through the provision of ecosystem services.

At a glance

  • DatesSeptember 2012 – February 2017
  • SponsorNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)
  • Funded£433,000
  • PartnersCentre for Ecology and Hydrology, Exeter University, Lancaster University, Manchester University, Queen Mary University of London, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

We are leading the research component on cultural ecosystem services provision in the Wiltshire landscape.

Cultural services are non-material benefits such as aesthetic pleasure, mental and emotional restoration, artistic inspiration, generation of knowledge, and sense of place and belonging.

The project has used of a series of community workshops, interviews and public surveys to study these benefits. It will use them to answer questions regarding the role of biodiversity in the generation of cultural services.

The results will help local and regional stakeholders, academics and policy-makers understand ecosystem services in this area and help support decision-making.

Progress update

A major face-to-face survey of over 500 members of the public was conducted in Wiltshire during autumn 2015 in partnership with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. These are being analysed to investigate the responses of people to different types of plants and animals, the effects of factors such as age and activities such as walking on these responses, and the benefits that people derive from interacting with nature. Also complete are a series of face-to-face interviews with local farmers, and a number of exploratory workshops with members of the public at various locations in the study area.

An on-line public survey is complete and the data analysis phase is now well underway. These data are currently being analysed, but initial results suggest that biodiversity-supported cultural services vary substantially in quantity and type between grassland and arable landscapes and at difference spatial scales.

Wessex BESS project team
The project team including some of our post-doctoral researchers visited a field-site

Further information

Find out more about the Wessex BESS project and watch a short video about the project on the Wessex BESS project website.

If you live in Wiltshire or visit regularly, you can contribute to this work by completing our online survey. Please tell us about places that you like to visit in the Wiltshire countryside, what you like to do there, and what benefit you feel that you get from this.

The Wessex BESS project is part of a series of landscape-based projects supported by the BESS programme, a NERC/BBSRC-funded research programme. Cranfield University also leads the Urban BESS (F3UES) project.