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New natural capital valuation tool takes comprehensive account of biodiversity

News Item 2019

A biodiversity module developed by JNCC has enabled a new natural capital valuation tool to take an effective account of biodiversity.

The new valuation tool – known as Natural Environment Valuation Online, or NEVO – has been developed by the University of Exeter as an accessible and user-friendly interface which policy makers and land use decision-makers in England and Wales can use to value existing and new land use options, and to prioritise environmental interventions and investments.

It works across multiple land uses such as agriculture, livestock, woodlands and urban areas, and considers hypothetical changes in a wide range of natural capital services such as food production, water quality and quantity, greenhouse gas storage, and recreation. In addition to these, NEVO uses the species distribution framework in the JNCC module to consider the likely impacts on biodiversity.

Biodiversity considerations have been overlooked or inadequately represented in previous natural capital valuation tools because the species models used within them have been limited to highly recorded species such as birds. In contrast, JNCC’s biodiversity module makes use of data from as wide a range of taxa as possible, even low-resolution data for poorly recorded species. In this way it offers a more representative indication of species and biodiversity distribution. 

Emma Wright, senior ecosystem analyst at JNCC, said: "As well as being a component of NEVO, our new biodiversity module has great value as a standalone species distribution model framework which can be incorporated into other natural capital tools. It is also applicable to the marine environment, and can help us improve our understanding of the relationships between species distribution and habitat condition."

Examples of the localities of presence data, and the resulting ensemble probability maps of species distributions included in NEVO:

Image: Example of Natural Environment Valuation Online on UK maps

Input data (locality of species presence records) and resulting ensemble map of probability of species presence, for a) European hare (Lepus europaeus, mean ensemble AUC = 0.82), b) white-letter hairstreak butterfly (Satyrium w-album, mean ensemble AUC = 0.91), and c) string-of-sausage lichen (Usnea articulata, mean ensemble AUC = 0.95).

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