5th April 2017
Scotland’s plants, animals, air, water and soils – which combine to deliver a wide range of benefits to people – are showing signs of recovery, according to the updated Natural Capital Asset Index released this week.
The Natural Capital Asset Index, published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) a member & supporter of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, states that after decades of decline until the 1990s, these ‘natural capital stocks’ have stabilised or improved slightly.
Natural capital forms a vital part of our economy. Among other things it helps to provide us with food; plant materials; water; natural flood defences, and crop pollination by insects. The Scottish Government's Programme for Government 2016-17 states "Scotland's natural environment is worth more than £20 billion per annum and it supports more than 60,000 jobs"
Evidence suggests that within lochs, rivers, woodland and coastal habitats, natural capital stocks increased between 2000 and 2015. For example, there have been improvements in the quality of coastal bathing water and the ecological status of our lochs and rivers. For bogs, heathland and agricultural habitats, stocks have declined.
The Natural Capital Asset Index is a composite index, based (i.e. equal to 100) in the year 2000. Although the Index indicates that natural capital has been relatively stable in the period up to 2015 it does not provide an understanding of what the ideal level is, to achieve the greatest benefits for nature and society, for Scotland's natural capital.
The Scottish Government’s update of the National Performance Framework (NPF), published in March 2016, saw “Increase natural capital” included as one of five new National Indicators. The Index was chosen as the National Indicator to monitor changes in natural capital.
Chair of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, Jonny Hughes, welcomed the refreshed Index, saying: “Our research with The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland and The Institute of Directors Scotland shows that more than 75% of businesses recognise the huge importance of Scotland’s natural capital to their operations, and there is clear recognition of the urgent need for action.
“There are some promising signs in the Index that we are turning a corner on caring for Scotland’s environment. But there is a long way to go before we can begin to reap the economic, social and environmental benefits we will get from healthier stocks of natural capital.”
Mr Hughes, commenting on the future potential for the Index, stated: “In order for the Index to provide a full picture of the nation’s natural capital we look forward to seeing its continued development to include Scotland’s marine environment.”
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham said: “Scotland's Economic Strategy recognises the influence of natural capital on financial, social, manufactured and human capital. Natural capital is important as it includes environmental resources like plants, animals, air, water, soils which can benefit people and businesses across Scotland.
“Scotland became the first country in the world to publish a detailed report which monitors annual changes in its natural capital and it is encouraging to see our stocks have improved since the index first launched in 2011.”
Rural Resources Manager at SNH, Claudia Rowse, said, “The Natural Capital Asset Index is a work in progress. Although trends in recent years are encouraging, we want to see recovery continue for the next few years to give us confidence that our nature and landscapes – which make Scotland a better place to live, work and visit – are being protected and enhanced for future generations.”