What are the benefits of our local environment to our businesses, our communities, our personal well-being – and our overall economy? Would putting a market value on our ‘natural capital’ make us protect and invest in it more? And what are the steps we need to take now to protect our communities, landscape and local economy from the potential effects of climate change and rising sea levels?

These were some of the issues explored at a landmark workshop at the Linklater Pavilion in July, cohosted by the Lewes & Ouse Valley eco-nomics (L&OVe) Group (part of Transition Town Lewes) and Environment Agency South East’s Coastal Communities 2150 (CC2150) team.

Bringing together invited local representatives from across Lewes District, the event was a pioneering opportunity to explore both the true economic value of the nature around us and how it – and our communities – could be affected by long-term climate change.

Naturegain
The all-day workshop included an opportunity to learn from the L&OVe team about the concept of ‘Naturegain’ as a means to evaluate natural systems from an economic perspective. Participants, who included business owners, councillors and residents from Lewes, Seaford, Newhaven and rural areas, were invited to identify and map the various benefits that the district’s rivers, woodlands, coast and other natural features provide to enterprises across the local economy, including farms, fisheries, schools and hotels explained. That which runs of the risk of it becoming irrevocably”

Flood visualisation
Participants also got to view an animated aerial visualisation that shows the potential impact of rising sea levels throughout the lower Ouse valley. Produced by the Environment Agency as part of the European-funded Coastal Communities 2150 project, the interactive video shows potential flooding patterns from Seaford to Lewes, based on sea level rises of 0.5 to 5 metres.

The Coastal Communities 2150 visualisation will soon be available online for use by businesses, community groups and schools throughout East Sussex to encourage a debate about rising sea levels, their local impact and possible solutions.

Long-term vision
John Gower, Environment Agency CC2150 Project Manager, said: ““The coast around South East England is changing and we all must be prepared for the future effects of rising sea levels, increased flood risk and sinking land levels.

“We were delighted to join up with the Lewes & Ouse Valley eco-nomics (L&OVe) Group and our partners to raise awareness of the long-term impacts of climate change and how we all have a part to play in adapting to it.

Plan ahead now
“We want to help communities plan ahead now for how they will contribute to managing their flood risk and their local environment in the future. That’s why I urge everyone to get involved by having their say on how we all can shape the future of these communities for generations to come.”

Dr Tingle added:
“Through the idea of Naturegain, we want to show the real value of investing for a healthy environment, both for the benefit of our local economy, as well  individual wellbeing. In turn, that can help our community plan for the type of serious climate change impacts that the Coastal Communities 2150 project has highlighted.”

Find out more
To learn more about the Coastal Communities 2150 project, go to http://www.environmentagency.gov.uk/aboutus/wfo/128455.aspx.

For more on how to value local eco-system services, go to http://www.lewes-eco-nomics.org