Broad Scale Ecosystem Assessment
BSEA Toolbox 1
Background to research
Key drivers for sustainable flood management in Scotland are:
- The Water Environment & Water Services (WEWS) Act
2003 requires the implementation of sustainable flood management. This
is supported by Scottish Planning Policy 7, which states flood
prevention/alleviation should not lead to deterioration in ecosystem
status, and should seek opportunities for habitat enhancement/ creation.
- The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland)
Regulations (CAR) 2004 requires certain activities to be regulated
including engineering activities on inland surface water or in the
vicinity of inland water or wetlands, and impoundments in surface
waters or wetlands.
- Future climate change is likely to increase the frequency
of flooding. Current predictions suggest that the 1 in 50 year
fluvial event could be reduced to 1 in 30 by 2080, and
there may be an increase the frequency of coastal flooding
with the 1 in 50 year event reduced to a 1 in 5 by 2080.
Broad Scale Ecosystem Assessment (BSEA) was developed to provide a
undertaking broad-scale ecosystem assessment at both the fluvial
catchment scale and costal cell scale for input into flood and coastal
management planning. This project (Project FRM02) builds on the
existing research completed for the Department for the Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency in England
and Wales, which is known as Broad Scale Ecosystem Assessment (BSEA):
Objectives of research
Project FRM02 was commissioned by SNIFFER to provide guidance on how to
integrate and assess ecosystems at the broad-scale (fluvial catchment
and coastal cell) in Scotland. The original England & Wales
BSEA guidance has been refined to take into account the different
legislative, statutory responsibilities and data availability in
The FRM02 project had the following objectives:
Key findings and
- Review the Scottish legislative and policy context,
relevant research initiatives, and the physical characteristics of
Scotland’s fluvial and coastal/ estuarine systems.
- Develop BSEA guidance for fluvial systems.
- Trial the fluvial guidance on the River Dee system as part
of ongoing sustainable flood management studies, and present the
conclusions and recommendations for implementing the fluvial guidance
- Develop BSEA guidance for coastal/estuarine systems.
- Present conclusions and recommendations for implementing
the coastal/ estuarine guidance in Scotland.
- Provide recommendations for how to implement BSEA in a
wider context than sustainable flood management, particularly
recommending how to integrate with WFD implementation in Scotland.
- Develop appropriate tools, databases and information to
support BSEA in Scotland.
BSEA is a new approach for identifying and assessing ecosystem
opportunities, constraints, risk and consequences for both fluvial
catchment and coastal cell management, which can usefully input into
the adoption of sustainable flood management policies. Key aspects of
Further work is required to strengthen broad-scale ecosystem
assessment, including data acquisition and interpretation methods,
combined with development of better ecosystem impact models (that can
integrate hydrology, geomorphology and ecosystem functioning). Specific
- It is the first phase in the development of a broad-scale
ecosystem assessment toolbox. It uses existing and available broad
scale data, linked to intuitive application of established methods
which facilitate pragmatic analysis. The guidance represents a
significant step forward in the consistent use of ecosystem assessment
at a catchment or coastal cell scale.
- It is an ‘evidence-based’ approach,
which focuses on ecosystem drivers, ecosystem function and ecosystem
status. The primary output is a set of spatially-linked opportunities
and constraints that seek to maintain and/or improve ecosystem function.
- Outputs form the basis for policy derivation or appraisal,
and are in a format that allows integration within MCA, SEA and
sustainability appraisal. The BSEA framework is also consistent with
the requirements for catchment-scale analysis implicit within the Water
- It seeks to provide the foundation for improved awareness
and access to existing data. It encourages use of qualified
professional judgement, which is transparent, based on a contemporary
understanding of ecosystem principles and takes into consideration both
risk and uncertainty.
- There are currently a number of limitations to
implementation of the guidance. Critically, data availability and
suitability at the broad scale are limited, as is the predictive
capability of models for ecosystem impact assessment. BSEA is available
for use on fluvial systems, but at present cannot be implemented as
part of broad-scale coastal studies in Scotland.
- The guidance has been designed as a framework that must be
updated as new information and methods become available. It provides a
solid platform from which to take ecosystem assessment forward into the
- The guidance is relevant for anyone managing or
implementing fluvial catchment-scale or coastal cell-scale planning
initiatives. It provides the vehicle for expert catchment analysis and
enhanced stakeholder dialogue.
- It has been successfully tested on the River Dee, as well
as river and coastal systems in England (for further information see
the Broad Scale Ecosystem Assessment (BSEA) Toolbox 1, R&D
Technical Report FD2112/TR, March 2006 on the Defra website).
Key words: Ecosystem, Flood Risk, Broad-scale, Fluvial, Coastal/
Estuarine, Assessment, SEA
- The Scottish Executive is currently developing its policy
in relation to Scotland’s coast, with a focus on sustainable
development. This policy moves towards a statutory framework for
broad-scale coastal planning, and it is therefore recommended that data
on coastal morphology, coastal flood extent, BAP priority habitats and
coastal defences are collected and/or collated to allow implementation
- The Scottish Executive is currently producing guidance for
Local Authorities on implementing environmental assessment of fluvial
flood risk management, and it is recommended that the indicative
floodplain maps and national habitat mapping data are integrated within
BSEA to strengthen its robustness as an assessment tool.
- Further testing of the guidance is recommended on a wider
selection of fluvial catchments to enable a broader spectrum of
potential policy applications to be assessed.
- BSEA can be used to integrate Water Framework Directive
studies. The BSEA framework could be applied to encompass the WFD
‘pressures’, with catchment objectives integrating
the WFD pressures and impacts to arrive at corresponding Programmes of
- Furthermore, it is suggested that BSEA also provides a
suitable framework for regulators tasked with controlling activities
under CAR. BSEA could be used to: identify areas at potential risk from
potential activities; develop ecosystem criteria which can be used to
inform the development of appropriate activities; and assess the
ecosystem consequences of individual activities or programmes of
Copies of this report are available from the Foundation, in electronic
format on CDRom at £20.00 + VAT or hard copy at £35
.00, less 20% to FWR members.
The report is available for download from the SNIFFER Website