Developing Demonstration Test Catchments as a platform for transdisciplinary land management research in England and Wales
Whilst a large body of plot and field-scale research exists on the sources, behaviour and mitigation of diffuse water pollution from agriculture, putting this evidence into a practical, context at large spatial scales to inform policy remains challenging. Understanding the behaviour of pollutants (nutrients, sediment, microbes and pesticides) and the effectiveness of mitigation strategies over whole catchments and long timeframes requires new, interdisciplinary approaches to organise and undertake research. This paper provides an introduction to the demonstration test catchments (DTC) programme, which was established in 2009 to gather empirical evidence on the cost-effectiveness of combinations of diffuse pollution mitigation measures at catchment scales. DTC firstly provides a physical platform of instrumented study catchments in which approaches for the mitigation of diffuse agricultural water pollution can be experimentally tested and iteratively improved. Secondly, it has established national and local knowledge exchange networks between researchers and stakeholders through which research has been co-designed. These have provided a vehicle to disseminate emerging findings to inform policy and land management practice. The role of DTC is that of an outdoor laboratory to develop knowledge and approaches that can be applied in less well studied locations. The research platform approach developed through DTC has brought together disparate research groups from different disciplines and institutions through nationally coordinated activities. It offers a model that can be adopted to organise research on other complex, interdisciplinary problems to inform policy and operational decision-making.
- This article is part of the themed collection: Macronutrient Cycles