Natural Capital Baseline Assessment

The LDN LNP believes that a good understanding of Natural Capital is essential if we are to ensure that the value of the environment is to be taken into account whenever significant economic decisions are made. This page explains what we are doing in order to understand what natural capital we have in our area, to recognise the goods and services it provides us with, and to use this knowledge in order to obtain the best outcomes for the environment and for society.

What is Natural Capital?

Natural Capital is an emerging term that many organisations are starting to use to describe the stock of all natural resources that exist on our planet – or in any given part of it. Natural Capital includes geology, soils, air, water and of course, all living organisms and their habitats. These different Natural Capital assets provide us with a wide range of free goods and services – often called Ecosystem Services. They underpin our economy and society, and some of them are even critical to making human life possible on Earth.

Examples of the benefits we get from Natural Capital are numerous. Here are just a few:

  • the natural purification of water;
  • slowing down the flow of water at times of heavy rain, so reducing flooding;
  • the cooling of our towns and the removal of pollution from the air, both by urban trees;
  • materials to build our houses and roads;
  • access to nature provides health benefits and economic savings;
  • the natural pollination of crops and flowers by bees and other insects.

The UK Government now recognises that Natural Capital is a core component of a healthy economy, and should be valued as such. Decisions which do not properly account for Natural Capital and Ecosystems Services can not only prove bad for the environment, but can also result in wider economic damage which might not immediately be apparent. Consequently, we cannot continue to let our Natural Capital assets decline any further in quality or quantity. However, we do need to better understand the Natural Capital we have, and the services it provides, if we are to ensure it is appropriately protected. To halt this decay, the Government announced that it intends to produce a 25 Year Environment Plan as a means of ensuring this generation is the first to leave the environment in a better state than we found it in.

Natural Capital Baseline Assessment (NCBA 2015)

In 2015, we undertook a ‘baseline assessment’ of the LNP area that pulled together existing information held by a range of partners on all the natural capital assets we knew about. It took over three months to compile, and we used an approach similar to that recommended by the UK Natural Capital Committee.  Information on the background to the project and the processes we used are in the Natural Capital Baseline Assessment overview

LNP Board members received detailed presentations of this data in March 2015, key elements of which are downloadable below.

The Natural Capital Baseline Assessment provides us with a snapshot of what assets we have in our region, how they are distributed, and in some cases provides an insight into the condition or quality of those assets. The Natural Capital Baseline Assessment should be a starting point for understanding the state of the environment in the LNP area, in order to allow informed decisions to be made on strategic matters. For example, it can show us where some certain assets are in a good or poor state (such as air/water/SSSIs) and helps focus our attention when considering our priorities.

This assessment identified 72 components of Natural Capital which could provide a good baseline understanding of the state of the environment in the LDN LNP region in 2015. Of these, it found 42 components could be mapped spatially, be quantified, or have their quality described. And of those 42 assets, 25 could only be presented in map form (i.e. the data was spatial and not numerical). There were, of course, other assets for which it was not possible to obtain data at that time.

In due course, we hope to be able to apply the emerging guidance from the government’s Natural Capital Committee in including natural capital valuations alongside economic ones.

Note: LNP partners shared a variety of GIS datasets in order to allow this Natural Capital Baseline Assessment to be undertaken on behalf of the whole partnership. These datasets have now been archived for us by Derbyshire County Council. However, we are not in a position to provide it directly to third parties due to data ownership rights and confidentiality issues.