The natural capital approach is about understanding the value of nature and integrating this into decisions we make about our economy and society. The approach emphasises how much we rely upon ecosystems (our natural capital) and the goods and services they provide to sustain our health and wellbeing. These services (called ecosystem services) include coastal protection, space for recreation, and food. Protecting and growing natural capital is also essential for our economy, as emphasised recently in the landmark Economics of Biodiversity report, led by Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta. The approach adopts economic language and methods to make it easier to connect our environmental and financial systems together.
In recent years, the concepts of the natural capital approach have begun to be explored in marine conservation and management, and have been incorporated into national environmental policy, including through England’s 25 Year Environment Plan. The approach can be useful for many purposes including:
- As a driver for habitat restoration and developing nature-based solutions.
- Marine Spatial Planning.
- Incorporation of ecosystem goods and benefits into national economic accounting systems.
Marine Natural Capital approaches at JNCC
JNCC’s Marine Natural Capital group, part of the Marine Ecosystems Team, is working to develop the use of the natural capital approach to bring a different perspective to nature conservation in coastal and marine spaces. JNCC is using, investigating, and extending these elements through the development of the following:
- Asset service registers to assess and quantify the level of service provision marine habitats provide, highlighting areas in need of either further protection or investigation.
- Developing ecological models to assess the affects human activities have upon the flow of different ecosystem services.
- Working with partners in the Defra group to estimate the economic value of Blue Carbon as part of a pilot study for Defra’s Natural Capital Ecosystem Assessment programme.
- Developing tools for managing, supporting, and implementing natural capital approaches, building on projects in Chile, Columbia and in the UK's Overseas Territories.