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Loweswater: a case study on the importance of ‘local’ scale for ecosystem management Lisa Norton, Claire Waterton, Judith Tsouvalis, Stephen Maberly, Linda May, Alex Elliott, Nigel Watson, Ken Bell, John Rockliffe, Leslie Webb, and the Loweswater Care Project. Co-sponsored by Defra and SEERAD.

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Loweswater: a case study on the importance of ‘local’ scale for ecosystem management Lisa Norton, Claire Waterton, Judith Tsouvalis, Stephen Maberly, Linda May, Alex Elliott, Nigel Watson, Ken Bell, John Rockliffe, Leslie Webb, and the Loweswater Care Project.
relu aims to help deliver
Co-sponsored by Defra and SEERAD

Introduction to the Rural Economy and Land Use programme

RELU aims to help deliver
  • Modern, sustainable and competitive farming
  • Protection of the environment
  • Beneficial social and economic outcomes

Interdisciplinary science

Stakeholder engagement

Knowledge transfer

Introduction to study site

Loweswater is a small catchment ~ 8km in the Lake District National Park


Landscape – cultural, recreation

aesthetics, inspirations, heritage etc

Food production

Fresh water – qualityand quantity

Soil – nutrient cycling, climate regulation, air quality, biodiversity

Understanding and acting within Loweswater – Community catchment management


A small dispersed rural community of ~100 residents, predominantly over 50 years old including 8 farmers and a high proportion of ‘incomers’ choosing to live in a beautiful landscape.

loweswater care project
Loweswater Care Project

An experiment in rural catchment management

The Loweswater Care Project (LCP) is a grassroots organisation made up of local residents, businesses, farmers, ecologists, sociologists, agronomists, environmental agencies and other interested parties. We work collectively to identify and address catchment-level problems in an inclusive and open manner. The LCP’s vision is to gain a better understanding of the diverse challenges faced by the Loweswater catchment and together to seek economically, socially and ecologically viable ways forward and put them into practice.

Mission statement

Ecological research at the catchment scale

Natural England/Defra


Landscape structure

Biodiversity on land


Economic viability

Land management

National Trust

Environment Agency


Nutrients on land


Nutrients lost to water

Lake structure

Biodiversity in water

Lake District National Park Authority

Loweswater catchment modelModel objectivesTo understand how what is done in the catchment is related to the algal blooms in the lake
  • What are the building blocks for the Loweswater model?
  • Land cover information
  • Land management information and soil P levels for farmed land (local data)
  • Numbers of people (local data)
  • Septic tank condition, use and management (local data)
  • Rainfall (local data)
  • Lake discharge
  • Wind speed
  • Air temperature/humidity
  • Cloud cover
  • Lake data for validation
modelling strategy
Modelling strategy

Collect farm data

Collect rainfall & flow data

Create farm management scenario data

Create farm nutrient budget (PLANET)

Calibrate rainfall/runoff model (GWLF)

Land cover

Generate daily runoff values

Calculate farm nutrient excess

Adjust for soil P deficit

Calculate nutrient runoff concentrations

(= nutrient excess/flow)

Add P losses from septic tank (as point or diffuse)

Generate daily nutrient inputs to lake (GWLF)

Status quo

Scenario testing

Predict lake response (PROTECH)

Local weather

What the modelling shows
  • Despite simplifications the three models, PLANET (farm), GWLF (hydrological) and PROTECH (algal) were successfully linked to produce a reasonable simulation of the effect of the land on the lake
  • Currently, the lake will need to improve to reach Good Ecological Status for the WFD
  • The models suggests that if the load was halved, the lake could be brought to good ecological status (time……). The model could be used as a tool to inform future land-management decisions.
  • Septic tanks have a relatively small effect on P and phytoplankton today, but- they can be improved without major changes to way of life and would become increasingly important if P-losses from the land were reduced.
Data limitations, even at this scaleData/information that is likely to be important but which we don’t have/ haven’t been able to incorporate
  • Slurry tank/midden stead condition
  • Yard water /waste arrangements
  • Connectivity between waste storage and water bodies (under normal conditions)
  • Connectivity between waste storage and water bodies (under extreme weather conditions)
  • Locations of animal feeders in relation to water bodies
  • Animal access to water bodies in lake feeder streams
Advantages of working at a local scale with local governance
  • Local engagement with ecological problems
  • Increased potential to understand the causes of those problems and find solutions (NT/farmers)
  • Better understanding and integration between local and national actors, in particular farmers and
  • bodies responsible for environmental quality
  • Better understanding within the community itself (residents/farmers)
  • Local empowerment
  • Improved access to potential funding sources – HLS, LEADER+
  • Questions
  • Is the political system as we know it, with it’s current
  • processes an structures, ready for more radical approaches
  • to public participation in environmental governance?
  • Are publics ready to participate having got used to the
  • notion that the Government will solve ‘things’ for them?
Other aspects of ecosystem management



  • Most farmers have diversified
  • Agricultural income ranges from 32-58% of farm income,
  • The remaining % is from the Single Payment Scheme or agri-environment schemes.
  • Total farming profit in the year of the survey was on average £7k.
  • High variability between the 8 farmers in the catchment in terms of ; farm size, field size,
  • stocking rate, boundary types and management, income and labour
  • 6 farmers in the catchment are over 50 yrs old, 3 of those have potential inheritors