Values & Priorities

Ask anyone for their favourite things about the environment in which they live or work and they’ll reel off a couple of personal highlights. Ask enough people and you’ll have a long list of varied responses. Is it possible to prioritise that list based on the most important factors?

There are undoubtedly ways to prioritise, however you are unlikely to come up with a perfect answer. Regardless of how you prioritise, its inevitable that someone won’t agree with you. 

Tackling this conundrum is precisely what the Marine Pioneer is trying to do for the natural environment of the Deben estuary.

There is no easy answer to such a difficult question, so we approached this question in the best way we could. That being, to collect as much scientific information on the Deben estuary as we could, then amass a  group of people whom know the estuary inside out to examine it. This happened on 27th March in  the Suffolk Marine Pioneer’s our ‘Values and Priorities’ workshop.


Deep in discussion

Deep in discussion

To help us, we brought in an expert team from the Institute of Estuarine and Coastal Studies, Hull (IECS) and the University of Aberdeen  to orchestrate the day. We were to work with high resolution satellite images  taken of the Deben by the European Sentinel II satellite. We would use these images to first map out all of the different types of features and habitats then identify what benefits came from them. This would allow us to progress to understanding how to prioritise.

It turns out that, as a group, we rather took to examining satellite images. Between us, we were able to identify more than 40 features and sub feature in less time than it takes to eat lunch. The purpose of this feature mapping was to roll us back to basics. It was important that everyone was singing from the same hymn sheet, so that we could each play an equal role on the latter half of the day; Identifying benefits from the Deben estuary.


The Deben Estuary

The Deben Estuary



After a hearty lunch,  IECS Daryl Burdon provided us with an introduction to  “natural capital” and “ecosystem services”. This was telling, as we were once more handed the satellite images for the Upper, middle and lower reaches of the Deben estuary and asked to list every benefit  we could think of that linked back to the ecosystems, features and habitats of the Deben.

If you told me at the start of the afternoon that collectively, we would be able to identify 56(!) different benefits in less than an hour, I would have laughed. Incredibly  though, that’s just what happened.

And so to the question of priorities.  With the benefits identified, we are able to start understanding how they manifest and begin to discuss trade-offs to make a decision about which are higher priority.  This though, needs to wait until we have fully understood and digested how the benefits link to the features.  Daryl and his team are in the process of doing just this, with the intent being to have a full day dedicated to discussing priorities at a second workshop, planned for June 11th.

By Pete Cosgrove on April 16th, 2019

The Pioneer and Natural Capital

The following links provide access to more information on what the Suffolk Marine Pioneer is, and how it fits in with wider ambition to improve the state of our natural environment.

Landscapes for life link image