DURESS Lessons Learned

On the date that marked the end of the DURESS grant (1st Dec 2015), the team gathered in the Welsh Assembly Pierhead building, Cardiff Bay, to share the lessons learned so far on river biodiversity and ecosystem services. Sponsored by Alun Ffred Jones, AM, Chair of the Environment and Sustainability Committee of the Welsh Assembly, the event attracted a packed audience from Welsh Government, Dwr Cymru, Wildlife Trusts, NERC, British Ecological Society, RSPB, Brecon Beacons National Park and other stakeholders.
Alun Ffred Jones at event

The event opened with the DURESS film Shaping the Future.

In his welcome, Alun Ffred Jones, AM described how he grew up in the hills featured in the film and in the DURESS project. He pressed researchers to make Assembly committees aware of their projects given the extent to which Assembly members rely on external evidence. They particularly need practical recommendations based on research evidence.

DURESS, he said, stood up to this challenge by outlining the key lessons learned.
Matthew Quinn at event

Matthew Quinn from the Welsh Government, a key stakeholder in DURESS, outlined the policy context. He commended the project, particularly its stakeholder and public engagement. Echoing Alun Ffred Jones’, call for change, Matthew said DURESS is giving direction on habitat restoration, building an evidence base that moved beyond single natural resources to ecosystems,  and helping to shape debate on payment for ecosystem services  i.e. “paying for what nature does for us”.

Project Leader, Dr Isabelle Durance, outlined the background to DURESS, detailing why we focused on upland rivers and in particular on four freshwater ecosystem services:  the regulation of water quality, carbon dynamics, the cultural value of river birds, and fish production.

Key highlights from the DURESS team then followed and included:

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      • Energy transfers – Evidence for upland broadleaf tree planting to support fish and adapt rivers to climate change.
      • Food webs are key components in the engine of ecosystem services.
      • The power of biofilm (the stuff that makes river rocks slippy!) in supporting production and regulating water quality.
      • Landscape context affects community diversity in all groups of organisms from microbes to birds, and at all levels from genes to ecosystems.
      • Water quality is highly dynamic during storms which is potentially critical to river biodiversity.
      • The UKs river systems are highly dynamic as they recover from some stressors (eg acidification as at Llyn Brianne) but are degraded by others (e.g. sediments).
      • Catchment land use is important for river resilience.
      • The DURESS Scenarios are helping to envisage future land-use change and its consequences for ecosystem services (e.g. salmon density and moderating cryptosporidium infection risk).
      • People place large value on water quality. We need the right tools and measures to quantify biodiversity and its role in ecosystem services.

Round table discussions revolved on the question: “How relevant DURESS research is to stakeholders?”  Along with the over 40 research articles currently in preparation, these discussions will help aim specific outputs for stakeholders.

We thank all who came and contributed to the day, and to the many others who followed through social media via @steveormerod and @Duress_HQ .

Programme for DURESS Lessons Learned Event

Please join us on December 1st in Cardiff Bay

to share the outputs of the Duress project and their value to policy and practice

Highlights include:

  • Showing of DURESS film “Shaping our Future”
  • Welcome by Alun Ffred Jones, Assembly Member for Arfon, Chair of Environment and Sustainability Committee, Sponsor of this event.
  • Keynote speaker Matthew Quinn, Director Environment, Welsh Government

DURESS Team presents lessons learned from the DURESS project:

  • Evidence for biodiversity and ecosystem services
  • Tools for ecosystem services sustainability
  • Visions of the future
  • Breaking news


Eventbrite - DURESS ecosystem services project - lessons learned or contact  duress@cardiff.ac.uk if you wish to attend

Using rugby to explain river foodwebs

At the National Museum, Cardiff Duress staff shamelessly used the Rugby World Cup to get the public thinking about river food webs.

Each October Cardiff University research teams take part in “Biology Rocks” to celebrate National Biology Week. This year DURESS had a stand with a “Nature plays as part of a team” game allowing people to sort their own river food web and discuss what happens when “key players are injured”. Also popular were our live stream invertebrates and a “Why do rivers need trees?” lucky dip. It is estimated 1385 people visited the event. We even had adults encouraging their children to take part because they wanted to know the answers themselves!

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Exhibit at Welsh Government offices in Aberystwyth

The ‎DURESS Photo exhibition is currently on display in the Welsh Government building in Aberystwyth which also houses some Natural Resources Wales offices. The 15 photographs, themed around DURESS work, are being used as a more fun and interesting way of communicating our work, rather than simply circulating research journal articles. Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales are key partners in DURESS and we hope all WG and NRW staff enjoy the exhibit, not just those we already work with.

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DURESS Team expands at the Royal Welsh Show

DURESS Scientists from Aberystwyth and Cardiff Universities were joined by show attendees at this years Royal Welsh Show. Children of all ages used our microscopes and keys to help identify invertebrates and find out about their functions. Some may have even been inspired to take up science courses in the future!

DURESS social scientists from Aberystwyth University were also asking people how they value the benefits we all gain from rivers. Their research will help us to understand the economic cost-benefits of upland river catchments and people’s preferences for ecosystem services.

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DURESS team at ASLO conference in Granada

DURESS team in Granada

DURESS team demonstrating the role of diversity in sustaining key ecosystem services at the ASLO Aquatic Sciences conference In Granada

DURESS PI Isabelle Durance and WP Leader Steve Ormerod organised a session on “Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Freshwater Ecosystems, a south north perspective” with talks from DURESS team members Hugh Feeley, Marian Pye and Dan Perkins.