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Natural Capital Assessment

30 May 2024

This is one of a series of articles about assessing natural capital on your land. The other articles in this series are:

The Value of Natural Capital Assessments

Ecosystem Services

Natural Capital Assessment Glossary

Natural capital refers to the stock of natural resources on Earth, encompassing both renewable and non-renewable sources. Understanding the relationship a farm has with its natural capital assets through a natural capital assessment can help make informed on-farm decisions.

The benefits derived from natural resources are known as 'ecosystem services' (you can read more about ecosystem services here). In Scotland, the ecosystem services provided by natural capital assets supply the air we breathe and the soil we use for growing crops. They also enhance business' resilience to climate change.

The way we manage natural capital assets directly affects the supply of ecosystem services, leading to potential risks or benefits for businesses.


What is a Natural Capital Assessment?

A natural capital assessment (NCA) can aid your understanding of your relationship with natural capital assets through highlighting your impacts and dependencies. An NCA can identify risks and benefits to your business, provide opportunities to manage assets differently, and in some instances, provide a valuation of the ecosystem services being supplied.

It is important to establish why you are undertaking an NCA and how it will be relevant to your decision making. There are different types of NCAs available to farmers through a range of companies. Some solely focus on farm scale, or valuation of certain ecosystem services, others are at catchment/landscape scale, provide a baseline to monitor change, or prioritise biodiversity. It is important to understand why you are doing an NCA and what you are hoping to do with the results so you can choose the correct type. Depending on what type of NCA you choose to be suitable for your business, there can be several components. Some common sections are listed below.

Components of an NCA

Components of an NCA

Find out more about how organisations have used different types of NCAs and the value they received from it.

The Natural Capital Protocol

The Capitals Coalition have developed The Natural Capital Protocol, a decision making framework that identifies the key stages that an NCA should follow (Figure 1). It aims to standardise the approach to NCA’s and many organisations align their overall approach to the framework. The protocol offers a stepping stone guide to highlight to land managers what they can expect an NCA to offer their business. However, the process can be tailored to business requirements.

Capital Coalition NC Protocol

A baseline NCA creates your first Natural Capital Inventory that consists of your current natural capital assets and their condition. Baselining is crucial to the development of an NCA and understanding what natural capital on farm is currently providing your business.

Benefits of baselining include:

An NCA can offer land managers a process and output to help manage their land and ensure the resilience of ecosystem services that natural capital provides. By understanding the interlinkages of assets on the ground, land managers can provide bespoke management plans, which will support their goals, comply with guidance and regulation and help maintain business resilience.

Further Information

Ecosystem Services | Helping farmers in Scotland | Farm Advisory Service (

The Value of Natural Capital Assessments | Helping farmers in Scotland | Farm Advisory Service (

Natural Capital Assessment Glossary | Helping farmers in Scotland | Farm Advisory Service (

Nature Scot have a page dedicated to information on Natural capital which can be found here: Natural Capital | NatureScot

Nature Scot with SAC Consulting and Cumulus Consulting trialled a Natural Capital Tool, from which information resources can be found here: Natural Capital Assessment Tool - A Whole Farm Approach | NatureScot

SAC Consulting can provide assistance and guidance to help land management understand and work with their natural capital: Natural Capital and Ecosystem Service Assessments ( 

Information on Rural Ecosystem Services can be found here: Rural ecosystem services | SRUC

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