The challenge

The increasing human population and unsustainable use of natural resources are causing large-scale, rapid changes to our environment.

Natural and anthropogenic changes are often interlinked and can cause unexpected impacts in physical, chemical and biological processes. Understanding the consequences of environmental change on biodiversity and natural processes and resources, including soil and water, is vital if we are to develop appropriate adaptation and mitigation strategies.

By integrating monitoring, process understanding and modelling, we can assess and respond to threats and risks, and benefit from opportunities associated with environmental change.

We must identify early warnings of change and possible ecosystem tipping points, attribute causes and determine the interactions between drivers of change, such as land-use and climate. In this manner we can identify opportunities for adaptation and build increased resilience of natural and highlymanaged ecosystems to change.

To achieve these ambitions policy needs to drive environmental management with approaches built on robust scientific evidence. CEH research provides this evidence. 

Example projects

  • Recent analysis of national pollinator distribution data,suggests future pollination services may be at risk in major crop growing regions of the UK. The study mapped the species richness and functional diversity of ground beetles and bees to provide surrogate measures of natural pest control and pollination for Great Britain and found deficits in functional diversity for both pest control and pollination in areas of high arable crop production. 
  • CEH is playing a leading role in quantifying the causes of pollinator decline, by:  i) carrying out research and providing science co-ordination and data management expertise for the Insect Pollinators Initiative and ii) leading the development of the UK National Pollinator Monitoring Scheme (NPMS).
  • CEH has a track record of working with policy makers and the farming industry to develop cost-effective solutions to halt pollinator decline and enhance crop pollination services within intensively managed farmland. We are directly supporting Natural England in the development of a package of measures to support pollinators under the new agri-environment scheme. CEH have been commissioned by Bayer and Syngenta to quantify the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides on honeybee populations throughout Europe.
  • The Cosmic-ray Soil Moisture Observing Systems (COSMOS) system is being deployed by CEH across the UK to provide measurements of near-surface soil moisture, a key variable in the control of land-surface-atmosphere interactions. This NERC investment will provide the infrastructure to transform atmospheric sciences and related environmental fields.