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Posted by: Sara King BSc (Hons) ACIEEM on 29/10/2013

OK, so money doesn’t physically grow on trees but thanks to Natural Capital Accounting methods natural habitats including trees, woodlands, and other habitats are increasingly being given a value. This value is referred to as Natural Capital and aims to assess the value of natural habitats to inform economic decisions. For example, woodlands have value on both a social and biodiversity level, as well as value for carbon storage and timber production. We all know that green open spaces have value. Quantifying this indicates its natural capital. Sara King, Ecological Consultant of Ecosulis Ltd, recently attended a discussion relating to this rapidly developing area, hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Biodiversity.

A good example of natural capital is the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Swamp habitats that provided value to the local area, including natural flood defences, were removed in the 1950s. These swamps were replaced with artificial flood defences. The damage resulting from Hurricane Katrina has been estimated at being around a quarter of a trillion US dollars. This highlights that natural capital of the swamp habitats that were removed –in this instance their value as natural flood defences (as well as for biodiversity). Natural Capital should therefore be embedded in policy decisions.

Natural capital is directly linked to Ecosystem services, which is the value of ecosystems on economies, society and biodiversity. It is important to consider the overall value of green spaces and natural, habitats not just to biodiversity but to flood alleviation, recreation and food production to name a few. Tools and guidance to calculate natural capital and apply this to policy decisions are still being developed. However, once suitable tools have been established, natural capital is likely to be an important tool in future decisions not just at a national level but at local levels too. Future assessments of losses and gains and the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) requirement for net gains are also likely to require the use of Natural Capital accounting. 

Categories: Ecological Consulting
Tags: Biodiversity Measurement | ecological consultancy | Ecosystem Services | natural capital
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