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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Overcoming barriers to land stewardship for flood management, biodiversity and carbon sequestration

Human land use change since the agricultural revolution has facilitated rapid growth, harnessing ecosystem services including soil fertility, water availability and photosynthesis to generate economic expansion. However the pursuit of industrialism and agricultural self-sufficiency in the UK competes with land-based ecosystem service provision, threatening sustainability. In response, Government have signalled their intention to reframe land management in favour of stewardship, delivering multiple benefits and paying ‘public money for public goods’.

Through extensive literature review this study assesses complex interdependencies associated with provision of three ecosystem services – flood management, biodiversity and carbon sequestration – from a parcel of UK land. The most effective strategies target self-supporting feedbacks intrinsic to core components of natural systems spread across delivery of multiple services, such as the soil system. Engineered interventions to promote one ecosystem service type produce both co-benefits and dis-benefits once mapped across all three domains, revealing the importance of policy promoting holistic management. For stewardship to be sustained policy must address the fundamental goals driving land use, for which three objectives arise: a) management strategies must have market value permitting reinvestment, b) deliver social amenity to promote wider stakeholder uptake, and c) bolster potential for intrinsic valuation of ecosystem flourishing. True land stewardship considers the place of human interactions within complex ecological dynamics.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.