National Character Area 70

Melbourne Parklands - Natural Capital and Key Ecosystem Services

Introduction

The Melbourne Parklands NCA provides a wide range of benefits to society. Each is derived from the attributes and processes (both natural and cultural features) within the area. These benefits are known collectively as ‘ecosystem services’. The predominant services are summarised below. Further information on ecosystem services provided in the Thames Valley NCA is contained in the ‘Analysis’ section of this website.

Note: The natural capital in this NCA is mapped below. This displays more recent national and publicly available data sets as used within Natural England’s 2020 Natural Capital Atlas Profiles.

The predominant ecosystem services in this NCA are also summarised below. The text contained in this section is based on the previous NCA profiles in 2014, and so is not entirely current. Further information on ecosystem services provided in the North Northumberland Coastal Plain NCA is contained in the Analysis: Ecosystem Services page of this website.

What is Natural Capital?

Natural capital means “the elements of nature that directly or indirectly produce value to people, including ecosystems, species, freshwater, land, minerals, the air and oceans, as well as natural processes and functions” (Natural Capital Committee, 2017).

It is helpful to consider natural capital in the form of a logic chain that represents the links between ecosystem assets, services, benefits and value to people. The figure below displays that logic chain. The quantity and quality of ecosystem assets (woodland, bogs, etc) support different types of ecosystem services, such as carbon sequestration or water filtration. These ecosystem services then provide different benefits to society, providing value for people. The figure also shows how management interventions, as well as pressures and drivers of change, influence this chain. Other capital inputs are also often needed for people to obtain the benefits from ecosystem services (a simple example is the processing of trees to produce wood products).

As an example, an area of woodland (ecosystem asset) may reduce air pollution created by traffic on a nearby road. This woodland is therefore improving air quality (ecosystem service) in the local area which results in cleaner air and improved health in the adjacent residential street (benefit). This cleaner air has a value because we know it impacts the health and wellbeing of communities.

Sometimes for ease of understanding, economic framing is used to give these benefits a monetary value. The figure below shows how natural capital assets support the provision of ecosystem services, benefits and value. The roots of the tree show how aspects of asset quality are critical to the provision of ecosystem services. The roots also show that geodiversity underpins the ecosystem assets and therefore the ecosystem services and benefits they can provide. It is important to remember that this diagram, and natural capital frameworks more generally, are a simplification of how nature works in practice.

Natural Capital within this NCA

In 2018, Natural England published ‘Natural Capital Indicators: for defining and measuring change in natural capital’ (Lusardi et al., 2018). This report identified key properties of the natural environment vital for the long-term sustainability of benefits, which can act as indicators of change.

These indicators are designed to inform our understanding of the state of our natural assets. The indicators highlight the importance of our natural assets for delivering which ecosystem service and the benefits they provide for society. The indicators and datasets identified in Natural England’s Natural Capital Indicators Project provide the foundation for the Natural Capital Atlas Profiles.

Natural England’s Natural Capital Atlas Profiles provide an “off the shelf” natural capital evidence base for each county or city region. They have a wide variety of uses with more information in the How to Start Using Your Natural Capital Atlas.

The Natural Capital indicators are presented on the map below by broad asset theme, displaying the natural capital within the NCA.

It is noted that not all indicators listed within the Natural Capital Atlas Profiles are included within the map as data is not yet available to measure them. Refer to the “Indicator Gaps and Limitations” of the Natural Capital Atlas Profiles for further information.

Note that numbers and figures in the body of the text are based on the 2014 profiles, unless otherwise stated.

Provisioning services (food, fibre and water supply)

Food provision: The various soil profiles in the NCA support a range of food provisioning: for example, less permeable soils are used for dairying and potatoes, while wheat and barley (and increasingly maize) are the main arable crops grown on the higher-fertility, free-draining soils. The best soils, the dark loams around Melbourne, support market gardening, and some remnant orchards survive as well.

Timber provision: The Melbourne Parklands NCA falls between the ancient forests of Needwood and Charnwood, and existing woodland represents 10 per cent of it. Some 25 per cent of the NCA is within The National Forest. The NCA’s woodland character has been significantly enhanced, with new, mixed woodland creation including commercial plantations. Short rotation coppice is uncommon, although there is potential for it to be sensitively accommodated within the wooded landscape.

Water availability: There are two large reservoirs in the NCA, Foremark Reservoir and Staunton Harold Reservoir, both of which are important for public water supply to the region. They also provide local ecological, conservation and recreational value. An outcrop of the Sherwood Sandstone Group, in the east of the NCA, serves as a recharge area for the deep Sherwood Sandstone aquifer, the second-most important in the UK. The aquifer is protected by the Environment Agency and is within a protected water area (Environment Agency). There are also a number of public water supply boreholes within the NCA that have source protection zones around them. For information regarding the current state of water availability within this NCA, refer to the Environment Agency (Abstraction Licensing Strategy).

Genetic diversity: A number of parklands, some originating from the Middle Ages, still contain managed deer herds with very long genetic continuity: they may have adaptive characteristics that could be significant in terms of resistance to diseases and pests. The remnant orchards associated with market gardening contain some local varieties; Leicester-Burton Pippin and Dumelow’s Seedling are just two of approximately 100 varieties of apple indigenous to Leicestershire that are not in the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale Farm, which is run by the University of Reading in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Biomass energy: According to Defra’s biomass potential map (DEFRA), there are opportunities for growing energy crops – provided that they are grown within the wooded landscape and do not have a detrimental visual impact on the setting of the country houses and parkland, or any direct physical impact on buried archaeology.

 

Regulating services (water purification, air quality maintenance and climate regulation)

Climate regulation: The soils over most of the NCA have a low carbon content, although there are small pockets of soil with a higher carbon content, associated with areas of woodland and permanent grassland. New tree plantations, made as part of The National Forest, as well as the effective management of existing woodland, can ensure that the role of the woodland in sequestering and storing carbon is optimised.

Regulating water quality: For information regarding the current state of water quality within this NCA, refer to the Environment Agency (Draft river basin management plan maps).

Regulating soil quality: Food provision is an important service in the NCA, and the quality and versatility of the soil has a direct impact on crop yield. The slowly permeable clay soils of the NCA can suffer from compaction and/or capping when wet, damaging the soil structure. This leads to nutrient loss and worsening rates of water infiltration.

Regulating pests: Semi-natural habitats and hedges close to commercial agriculture areas may support predators that can regulate pests that adversely affect food provision.

Cultural services (inspiration, education and wellbeing)

Sense of place/inspiration: A sense of place is evoked by the large landscaped parklands and grand country houses surrounded by extensive estate woodlands, and by the associated red-brick estate farmsteads and villages set within an undulating, tranquil, mixed-farming landscape.

Sense of history: A strong sense of history is evoked by the imposing and historically important churches, country houses and designed parklands, notably at Calke and Melbourne, which date from the 17th and 18th centuries. Melbourne Parish Church is one of the finest and most complete Norman churches in England, and, like the spectacularly sited church at Breedon-on-the-Hill, is a prominent historic landmark. Areas of remnant ridge and furrow survive as a further indication of historic land use that is still legible in this landscape.

Recreation: The number of visitors to the NCA is important to the local economy. Recreational opportunities are provided by the woodlands that form part of The National Forest, as well as by historic country houses and their associated landscaped parklands (such as Calke Abbey, which is now owned by the National Trust). Reservoirs at Staunton Harold and Foremark both offer a range of leisure opportunities, with popular visitor centres providing children’s play areas. Public rights of way also provide leisure opportunities and National Cycle Route 6 (Derby to Loughborough) passes through the NCA.

Biodiversity: There are over 533 ha (4 per cent of the total area) of Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority habitats within the NCA, including 223 ha of wet woodland and 156 ha of lowland mixed deciduous woodland. There are 312 ha of land nationally designated as an SSSI. Calke Park (designated as both an SSSI and an NNR) is recognised internationally for wood pasture and parkland. The park has exceptional deadwood invertebrate fauna, including many that are endangered or nationally scarce. It is also important for its fungi, the oak polypore being nationally scarce and only occurring on very old oak trees. A good diversity of woodland birds and at least eight species of bat have all been recorded here, including the serotine bat (this is its only known location in Derbyshire). Elsewhere in the NCA, stands of ash and alder occur in the valley bottoms, occasionally associated with rich, lime-loving ground flora including giant bellflower and hart’s-tongue fern. These give way to stands of birch and English oak on the Millstone Grit, with associated acidic woodland ground flora and extensive areas of unimproved grassland.

Breedon Hill SSSI comprises one of the largest areas of species-rich limestone grassland in Leicestershire, and is representative of such grassland habitats in the Midlands. Carvers Rocks SSSI comprises an area of wet alder, birch and willow carr, and also supports a diverse invertebrate fauna, with several nationally or regionally rare and scarce species. A large number of regionally scarce plants are associated with the wet woodlands. Ticknall Quarries SSSI comprises a range of habitats, including open water, ash woodland and flower-rich calcareous grassland.

Geodiversity: Designated Local Geological Sites provide important and accessible sections allowing interpretation and understanding of, and research into, the soils and geology of the NCA, aiding our understanding of past climates. Of particular interest are the Peak Limestone Group at Breedon Quarry, Cloud Hill Quarry and the former Ticknall lime works. Other quarries are found in the Millstone Grit in the area around Melbourne, and in the Sherwood Sandstone Group at Dimminsdale. Minerals from the Earl Ferrers’ Mine at Dimminsdale feature in major collections in both the UK and other countries, and material from the spoil heaps offers opportunities for the study of mineral genesis. The legacy of quarrying contributes to the character of the NCA and to the local vernacular; the appropriate, small- scale extraction of stone could provide materials for repairing existing buildings and for new development, to maintain the vernacular.