INCASE 2021 - A year of challenges and triumphs
Updated: Jan 9
Some years are busy, and then some years are just out of bounds - leave it to 2021 to shove 2020 right off the top in terms of challenges. INCASE ecologist Dr Catherine Farrell fills us in on how 2021 went for our team.
Having spent most of 2020 figuring out what a natural capital account actually looked like, in 2021 we finally got into our stride and the jigsaw pieces started coming together. Phew! From January to Easter, we knuckled down and collated extent and condition datasets for our four catchments, managing in the process to publish a paper highlighting our findings in the journal, One Ecosystem. This case study of the Dargle catchment provides a good road map for anyone thinking about setting out on the natural capital accounting (NCA) process. Understanding stocks is critical and indeed this has been a significant learning for us.
Key message: If your natural capital stock is limited in extent, or in bad condition, you can expect diminishing returns in terms of services and benefits. Essentially, a red flag moment.
From Easter we focussed on the flows aka services and benefits. This was tricky and it’s fair to say that it involved some ‘imagining of jigsaw pieces’, as when we went looking for data, it simply wasn’t there. Or we couldn’t access it. Often we were aware of the benefits before we actually understood the role of the ecosystem in providing the service that contributed to the benefit’s delivery. But if it’s one thing that NCA does, it makes those links in the supply chain more obvious. For example, regulation of water supply – a critical part of the life cycle of a freshwater pearl mussel - but also critical for farmers relying on flows in rivers and streams to supply drinking water to livestock.
Key message: The flows are not always obvious!
Stakeholder engagement has been a key part of INCASE, and we were fortunate to host online catchment workshops in June 2021, with opportunities to share our approach and ideas, but more importantly to learn from those at the catchment community front lines. We were joined by MSc student Elizabeth Quinn-Sheridan and you can read some of her findings here. You can also catch some of our learnings across the array of gatherings we presented at throughout the year – the CIEEM conference in April, the annual EPA Environment and Climate Change meetings, ESP and SER Global conferences in June, the SEFS conference in July, the EMRA SEA workshop in November and the WAVES NCA policy forum and UN SEEA EA workshops in September and December respectively.
At every event we participated in, there was a keen and heightened interest in the work, and thanks to everyone for their constructive comments and critique. Data was discussed widely this year and we were delighted to present at the NCI Data4Nature workshop in May and the following National Open Data Conference at the end of November.
Key message: Data is important, but raising awareness of what is relevant and why, is equally important!
Less formal presentations were made at the Borris Literary Festival in August, with very enjoyable discussions as part of the Culture File Weekly slot on Lyric FM in October and a CIEEM webinar over the Hallowe’en break. Lest we forget the Peatlands Gathering 2021, and on the subject of peatlands, we look forward to sharing two peer reviewed publications on peatlands in early 2022 (fingers crossed!).
All good things come to an end, and the core INCASE team will be breaking up in the new year. As we move into our new roles and new projects, we will continue to refine and collate our findings for dissemination and publication (our final report to be finalised towards the end of 2022).
Building on the shoulders on INCASE, we look forward to continuing NCA learnings at farm and forest scale, in a bid to support transformative behaviours into this critical decade for nature and people. Thank you for your support throughout and we look forward to meeting and sharing with you in 2022.