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The Value of Natural Capital Assessments

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:

Natural Capital Assessment

Ecosystem Services

Natural Capital Assessment Glossary

The benefits of completing a natural capital assessment (NCA) can be seen through case studies of farms and estates throughout the UK who have been through the process. Below is an overview of the reasonings behind conducting an NCA, some benefits and lessons learned.

An NCA can offer great insight into the functionality of your land. By forming a baseline, the assessment can highlight vulnerabilities and opportunities to enhance the land. The value of what is gained from an assessment can be tailored to your needs and can offer multiple benefits. More information on what a natural capital assessment (NCA) is and what you can gain from a NCA can be found here.

Benefits for your Business

NC Benefits to Business Infographic

Natural capital assessments can be tailored to your business requirements. As shown below, businesses approach their needs and outputs based on the goals of their business. Hover over the images to find out more about each case study.

NC Highlands Rewilding

Highlands Rewilding

Highlands Rewilding

Highlands Rewilding have been undertaking natural capital assessments since 2021. The initial assessment provided a baseline to help understand their land and the potential for future developments. The subsequent assessments have allowed the company to focus their attention and highlight areas which will help them attain their business goals.

Highlands Rewilding have been able to demonstrate changes and improvements through a deeper understanding of their land. The reporting process has offered a foundation to work from and allowed ease of information and reasoning to be shared with stakeholders and the general public.

NC Blackwater Estuary

Blackwater Estuary

Blackwater Estuary

Natural Capital Solutions carried out a detailed natural capital and ecosystem services assessment for the Blackwater Estuary in 2021. The assessment focused on producing a detailed baseline of natural capital and ecosystem services within the estate to allow stakeholders the ability to focus attention on where to create and improve habitats to enhance the estuary in subsequent projects.

This form of natural capital assessment allows stakeholders to observe what assets they have within the estate, their condition and where to prioritise funding and projects in the future to the connective goals of the area. Looking at the condition of all their assets the assessment offered the opportunity to present an overview of the whole area, examining the detail but allowing for potential strategic improvements to be suggested to help improve the estuary in the future.

NC Crown Estate

The Crown Estate

The Crown Estate

Crown Estate, with SEPA and NatureScot (previously Scottish Natural Heritage) trialled the Natural Capital Protocol on three land-based businesses within Scotland. This project aimed to see if this form of natural capital assessment works and can provide useful outputs for Scottish businesses, and was led by Cumulus Consulting and AECOM.

The assessments, focused on farms and estates, looked in detail at what businesses had on their land, the condition and the ecosystem services which were critical to their enterprise.

The NCAs resulted in offering the enterprises actions and opportunities to take forward to enhance, improve and make their business more resilient to a changing climate. Each business produced different outputs and strategies, highlighting that an NCA can be tailored to specific business needs and goals. The project highlighted the ecosystem services which were critical to the different enterprises, demonstrating to land managers the areas where focus should/could be focused to sustain these important services.

NC James Hutton Institute

The James Hutton Institute

The James Hutton Institute

e James Hutton Institute applied the Natural Capital Protocol on Glensaugh Farm, an upland hill farm, to assess whether this approach could help support and aid decision making in Scottish upland farms.

The study showed that the protocol method produced interesting outcomes, highlighting areas which the farm can utilise with regard to management actions.

The case study does highlight the necessary requirement of the quantity and quality of data input into an NCA. For a robust assessment to be fully utilised and be of use for land managers, this case study highlighted that the information used to form the assessment needs to be reliable and of good quality to ensure that responsible assessment can be carried out. The access to this information could potentially be a barrier for many land managers.

NC Affinity Water and Anglian Water

Affinity Water and Anglian Water

Affinity Water and Anglian Water

Affinity Water and Anglian Water conducted a Natural Capital Assessment, prepared by AECOM in 2022 to help inform an infrastructure development project. The NCA examined two potential route options for water transfer operation from a reservoir to supply area. The NCA was conducted to demonstrate to Affinity Water and Anglian Water the impact of each option on the environment, society and the economy.  Looking at the options in this approach allowed comparisons to be made and the assessment to be tailored to the needs of the project.

The assessment allowed for mitigation measures and conditions to be included in the results and also included additional suggestions to improve the natural capital of each option within the route choices to lessen the impact on the environment.

NC West Lothian Council

West Lothian Council

West Lothian Council

West Lothian Council commissioned Natural Capital Solutions to complete an NCA. The assessment conducted an extensive evaluation of the natural capital and ecosystem services which the land is currently providing. The results have provided WLC with a robust baseline to work from and enhance their natural capital moving forward.

The assessment concluded with an analysis of all the baseline criteria and has provided WLC with next steps to help understand, and work with the data they have collected. The report can be used to make positive and meaningful investments, important and relevant policy decisions and help WLC’s economy. Through this the true value of the assets can be accounted for and provides a robust baseline to help inform business decisions and priorities moving forward.

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