New reports will enable UK to make the most of its natural assets
Natural Capital refers to the assets within our natural environment that provide benefits for humans. Plants, animals, freshwater, soil, minerals, air and oceans all contribute to Natural Capital. The concept lies at the heart of the UK Government’s recently published 25 Year Environment Plan and is set to play an increasingly influential role in public policy and business decision-making.
The new reports, published by the Valuing Nature Programme, which is co-ordinated by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH), summarise the science available to inform a Natural Capital approach in four key areas:
- The Natural Capital valuation of floodplains in relation to preventing floods, storing carbon, and supporting biodiversity.
- The Natural Capital valuation of soil in relation to producing food, storing carbon and regulating water supply.
- Natural Capital trade-offs from the afforestation of peatlands in relation to the effect on storing carbon, controlling water supply, supporting biodiversity, providing recreational spaces and preserving a record of the past.
- How businesses are using Natural Capital assessments in practice.
A fifth report on the Natural Capital of temporary rivers has already been published, highlighting their varied benefits including biodiversity plus drought and flood control.
The reports, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), also identify evidence gaps and make recommendations for further collaborative action by government, business and academia. For example, the authors recommend further research into the effect of changes in land use and climate on soil, and identify the need for better datasets to enable monetary assessments of Natural Capital.
Dr Anita Weatherby of CEH, who manages the Valuing Nature Programme said: “The Valuing Nature Programme works to make knowledge from diverse research disciplines easier for decision-makers to use. These reports summarise the evidence available to inform a Natural Capital approach, and show some of the challenges where further research is needed.”
Dr Peter Young, chair of the Business Interest Group for the Valuing Nature Programme, said “The UK has a world-class research capability in understanding and valuing the natural environment, but outputs are often hard for mainstream business to access and interpret. These reports provide accessible and authoritative knowledge which can be readily applied by all who impact on relevant natural assets as part of their core activities.”
The Valuing Nature Programme will run a series of webinars on the reports, to receive information on these sign up to the Valuing Nature Network.