With the aim of integrating our study on the socio-cultural values of ecosystem services into practical land management, Ariane Walz and myself, Katja Schmidt, from Potsdam University arranged an initial stakeholder meeting to discuss mutual interests in the outer Edinburgh area. The study explores which benefits of the Pentland Hills Regional Park visitors are aware of, which ones are important to them and for what reasons. These benefits may result from regional produce that the area provides, air quality improvement or the various recreational uses that are commonly undertaken in the area.
We assembled a variety of participants from the City of Edinburgh, East, Mid- and West Lothian Councils, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Pentland Hills Regional Park Management and Forest Research to discuss issues, interests and options in two regions in the Lothians. Working with stakeholders from the study inception allowed us to profit from their local knowledge as well as to ensure that our research will be beneficial and relevant for practical implementation.
Dr. Marc Metzger hosted the meeting at the University of Edinburgh, in December 2013. We discussed two potential study areas, the Pentland Hills Regional Park and the coastal area of East Lothian, as we were looking for a versatile study region within an urban-rural gradient of Edinburgh. Participants provided information about recent land use and demographic developments in addition to current issues and problems.
Both of the regions provide a broad range of recreational activities but differ in land use and management. Each area provided promising case studies with regards to their provision and use of ecosystem services and council representatives from both regions were very positive about the study being performed in their area.
Owing to pre-existing networks of landowners and stakeholders, we decided to conduct our study in the Pentland Hills Regional Park (with the option of having a similar study design used in East Lothian within a Master’s thesis).
We will provide stakeholders with in-depth and spatially explicit insight on visitors’ use and preferences of a broad range of ecosystem services within the study region. We will also test respondents’ preferences towards various land management scenarios. Eventually, we aim to provide evidence, that the Pentland Hills are an invaluable asset to their visitors due to cultural, provisioning and regulating benefits.
The Pentland Hills, a hilly landscape just south of Edinburgh is partially designated as a regional park and provides an area for livestock farming in the uplands with agricultural farming and livery in the lowlands. The area comprises drinking water reservoirs that are partially in use in addition to training areas for the Ministry of Defence.
The Pentland Hills provide for a variety of recreational uses like walking, running, cycling, fishing and grouse shooting mostly for people from Edinburgh. Issues in the area include impacts on paths and landscape due to an increase in frequency and size of recreational events within the Regional Park, as well as constructing a wind farm just outside of the Regional Park borders.
Our next step will be to pitch our study design at the bi-annual Pentland Hills Regional Park Consultative Forum, an advisory group meeting where issues affecting the Regional Park will be discussed. We hope to gain more input on our planned survey from attending farmers, landowners, nature conservation groups, recreational groups, Community Councils and more.