Whether we live in towns or in the countryside, we are part of and rely upon natural systems. The benefits or services which society obtains from the natural environment are commonly referred to as ‘ecosystem services’ or ‘natural capital’. It is our aim to define the services provided by the special qualities defined here in order to promote the benefit of preserving and enhancing the North Wessex Downs.
These natural benefits are grouped into four categories: Supporting – e.g.soil formation, nutrient cycling, primary production by plants; Provisioning – e.g. Woodland that provides timber for fuel, construction and manufacturing, or farmland that provides insects to pollinate crops, providing food to eat; Regulating – e.g. Soils that absorb rainfall to prevent flooding, and filter water to give us healthy rivers and aquifers, where we get our water; Cultural – landscapes, wildlife and heritage that give us our identity, support tourism, offer recreation and learning opportunities and delight the soul.
There is a need to conserve soil, water and clean air as these resources sustain life and support biological resources on which we depend. In particular:
Protecting natural resources by operating in a way which minimises damaging impacts is therefore an important objective for the North Wessex Downs. In partnership with the Environment Agency and Natural England, Catchment Sensitive Farming delivers practical solutions and targeted support to enable farmers and land managers to take voluntary action to reduce diffuse water pollution from agriculture to protect water bodies and the environment.
The NCAs are based on the Local Character Areas that were developed across the AONB to inform protection and enhancement activities.
We have been working with partners Natural England to develop National Character Area (NCA) profiles for the AONB. NCA profiles are guidance documents which will help to achieve a more sustainable future for individuals and communities. The profiles include a description of the key ecosystem services provided in each character area and how these benefit people, wildlife and the economy. They identify potential opportunities for positive environmental change and provide the best available information and evidence as a context for local decision making and action.