A collaboration of coast and countryside organisations on The Lizard Peninsula

This week I had the great pleasure of introducing new first year students from the University of Exeter's Centre for Geography, Environment and Society to the human and physical geography of Cornwall during a fieldtrip to West Penwith. We spent two days looking at the cultural, historical geography of that area, along with geomorphology, ecology, landuse and heritage. As I sat atop Carn Galver with them, bellowing into the wind, I pointed south east towards the Lizard to illustrate an important current concept for landscape managers: ecosystem services. I know the Lizard far better than West Penwith, so it was an obvious choice to help me describe what can sometimes be a difficult idea for students to get their heads around. The ecosystem services approach identifies four types of services provided by nature: provisioning services, supporting services, regulating services and cultural services. These cover everything from nutrient cycling, pollination and water purification to more esoteric services such as spiritual renewal and inspiration. On the Lizard, all these services are present simultaneously, and part of the challenge for landscape managers and others is to figure out how to identify them, measure them, and ultimately attribute a value to them. For example, the wonderful views provided by the coast path from Lizard to Kynance (one of my favourite walks) generates significant revenue from tourism and visitors.Kynance Cove That is relatively easy to identify and measure. But what about the value of that wonderful fresh air, which is produced by a global atmospheric system? That is a service produced at a much larger scale, and is in some respects harder to measure and harder to value.

 Why has it become necessary to use the concept of ecosystem services to talk about the many ways in which nature supports life on earth? Certainly, the moral argument about saving nature for it's own sake (and ours) has not prevented the widespread degradation of our natural environment across the globe. But identifying provisioning, supporting, regulating and cultural services helps us to make visible critical functions which might otherwise be overlooked because they cannot, in an of themselves, be exploited. Thus it is that we can show the importance of pollination, without which agriculture would not be possible, in order to show the value of protecting bees from damaging pesticides. Bubble beeIn the short term, such pesticides might improve yield, but if it is to the detriment of pollinators, then we are all in trouble. Identifying and valuing ecosystem services gives us a powerful way to challenge economic arguments for insatiable growth and development by recognising and valuing all the services provided by nature. Such work is critical in protecting a unique landscape like the Lizard. 

 Published: Oct 2018
Author: Professor Catherine Leyshon (nee Brace)
Centre for Geography, Environment, and Society