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Northern Ireland Environment Link Logo





May 2018 right left


Community Places Free Planning Advice

Wednesday 2nd May
Community Places, 2 Downshire Place, Belfast BT2 7JQ


Dry Stone Walling

Sunday 6th May
Mourne Mountains


Belfast Roadshow on Sustainable Development Goals

Tuesday 8th May
Herbert Smith Freehills LLP, 3 Cromac Quay, Ormeau Gasworks, Belfast BT7 2JD

Sustainable NI Carbon Management Training

Wednesday 9th May
Parliament Buildings, Belfast
See above


An Evening Walk in Spring

Saturday 12th May
Belfast Area

Guided bluebell walk at Prehen Wood

Sunday 13th May
Prehen Wood, Derry~Londonderry


Bluebell Stroll with the Ranger

Saturday 19th May
Murlough NNR
No Charge, Donations Welcome

Glenoe Geology Walk

Saturday 19th May
Glenoe Waterfall
No Charge, Donations Welcome

Gilford Castle, Gilford Village, Co Armagh – Historic Garden Restoration

Sunday 20th May
Gilford Castle, Gilford Village, Co–Armagh


Carbon Management Course

Wednesday 23rd May
Inspire Business Park, Newtownards
£225 (No VAT to pay)


Country Fair

Sunday 27th May
Florence Court
Normal Admission Members Free

Jazz in the Garden at Mount Stewart

Sunday 27th May
Mount Stewart
Normal Admission Members Free

Cruise the Lough

Monday 28th May
Adult £4, Child £2


Making the Most of Nature… 27 August 2015

”Making the Most of Nature’s Role in Society” by Roisin O’Riordan, Ecosystems Knowledge Network



While those reading this may be all too aware of our reliance on nature for life’s essentials, this can be easily overlooked elsewhere in society. More than ever before, our concern for the natural environment must be communicated in ways that make it relevant to the everyday agendas of ordinary people. We need to connect these concerns with the things that are on the minds of those not traditionally interested in environmental issues, topics like making wise business investments, keeping healthy and tackling inequality. The term ‘ecosystem services’ is now often used as a helpful way of giving greater recognition to the amazing diversity of what nature does for individuals, communities and society as a whole. ‘Green infrastructure’ and ‘natural capital’ are the buzzwords for what underpins these services. Connecting these services with society’s needs and aspirations is the key to valuing nature for all its worth.

A range of initiatives across Northern Ireland are starting to illustrate how important nature is to the lives of ordinary people and businesses, including those for whom nature conservation is not a priority. One such initiative is the RSPB Lough Neagh Basin Futurescapes project. It is working closely with local stakeholders and enhancing the multiple benefits that this area of land and water can help provide for both nature and society. At Lough Beg, the wet grassland restoration project has made the connection with managing water levels and farming, with reducing flood risk, with biodiversity conservation and carbon sequestration. Elsewhere, the Belfast Hills Partnership is helping to show how the city of Belfast depends on its surroundings.

“The ecosystem approach provides a framework for managing the relationship between people and nature”

There is now a strong narrative in support of these kinds of people–centred and forward thinking initiatives. The Biodiversity Strategy for Northern Ireland to 2020, published in July 2015, advocates this large–scale thinking. It puts forward the ecosystem approach as the starting point for its implementation. The ecosystem approach provides a framework for managing the relationship between people and nature, including the application of thinking about ecosystem services. It emphasises the importance of involving people, businesses and communities in decision making, and encourages them to realise how dependent they are upon nature’s health.

This large–scale strategic thinking also underpins the approach in the report ‘Towards a Land Strategy for Northern Ireland’. The report, published in 2014 by the James Hutton Institute in collaboration with Northern Ireland’s Land Matters Task Force, reviewed the contributions that land makes to the economy and society in Northern Ireland. The report sets out a vision whereby land and landscapes are “managed for the benefit of people’s well–being and prosperity, respecting the views of communities, groups and individuals, striving for environmental excellence, and making best use of its multi–functionality”.


Assessing what the natural processes and features in any one place do for society may seem like a daunting task. While technical know–how can come in handy (for example when mapping ecosystem service provision) this kind of assessment should not be the preserve of academics and consultants. Local communities and stakeholders need to be at the centre of continual appraisal of all that nature does for people. This dialogue can be the starting point for new conversations, new partners, new funding and action on the ground.

“Making nature relevant to society is not just about money”



A recent study by the University of Exeter focused on the public’s attitudes to the concepts of the ecosystem approach and the ecosystem services framework, and how these concepts resonate with societal concerns about the environment. The ‘Naturally Speaking…’ public dialogue found that cultural services were frequently singled out by participants as an indication of the framework’s holistic outlook, while the logic of provisioning services (such as the production of food) was well understood and articulated by participants who saw the strong connection between environmental processes and economic prosperity.

Whilst there is lots of talk of payments for ecosystem services, making nature relevant to society is not just about money. It is about dealing with our most pressing health challenges, and creating places where people want to live and visit.

The Ecosystems Knowledge Network is a resource for anyone wanting to make more of nature’s role in society

The Ecosystems Knowlegde Network run events and webinars sharing the know–how of those who are putting the ecosystem approach into practice. Our website is full of links to practical examples and tools.

To join for free as a member go to You’ll receive all the benefits of being part of a fast–growing UK–wide network of people working on what the ecosystem approach means for the management of land and water. Phone or email to have your say on activities that you would like to see in Northern Ireland that help equip people to show nature’s role in society.

We are planning on more collaboration with Northern Ireland Environment Link in the future.

Roisin O’Riordan
Project Officer
Ecosystems Knowledge Network