Natural Capital assessments – which help to define the value of natural assets – are especially useful for individual farmers and landowners, a trial project has found.

The trial applied the Natural Capital Protocol, co-developed by an international team of expert businesses and NGOs, to land-based businesses on two Moray estates run by Crown Estate Scotland as part of its work to put Scotland at the forefront of developing new ways of managing land and the environment.

‘Natural capital’ can be defined as the world’s stocks of natural assets which include geology, soil, air, water and all living things. It is from this natural capital that our communities derive a wide range of services, often called ecosystem services, which make human life possible.

These include food, water and the plants we use for fuel, building materials and medicines, as well as the natural flood defences provided by forests, the billions of tonnes of carbon stored by peatlands, and the pollination of crops by insects. Our well-being and economy also benefit from the scenic beauty of landscapes and people enjoying nature outdoors.

Tenant farmers who took part found the Protocol useful in improving their understanding of different kinds of natural capital on their farm and how they impact their business.

All participants felt that the Protocol would help in improving economic and environmental performance and resilience, and that it helped link existing tools and schemes.

Tenant farmer Jim Simmons said:

“The trial has been really useful in helping to increase my awareness of how our business may impact natural environment. It’ll help us to make more informed decisions about how to improve our farming operations going forward, both in economic and environmental terms.”

Crown Estate Scotland Head of Property, Andrew Wells, said:

“This has been a promising start as we try to find a way to better understand how land businesses can use emerging tools like this to better understand their impacts and dependencies on natural resources and make more sustainable business decisions.
“The farms involved in the trial have already been long involved in taking a sustainable approach to land management, including riparian and hedgerow planting, soil improvement and wildflower management. Even with those good practices in place, they still found the Protocol really helpful in planning the long-term potential of their land.”

The trial worked with three different land-based businesses: the entire 23,000 hectare Glenlivet Estate (with a range of farming and leisure activities e.g. mountain bike trails), an upland tenant farm on the same estate, and a lowland arable business on Crown Estate Scotland’s Fochabers Estate.

“The trial worked best when assessing specific activities. If we were to broaden the project, we also need to demonstrate why gathering data on natural capital can be valuable to businesses and how it might link to changes in funding and subsidies.

Andrew Wells, added:

“The rural sector in Scotland and across the UK is facing a lot of uncertainty and, with EU subsidies and funding likely to be phased out in coming years, the natural capital approach provides a different way of measuring and assessing business impacts and understanding emerging opportunities for the long term sustainable use of our land.”

Claudia Rowse, Head of Rural Resources Unit, Scottish Natural Heritage, said:

‘SNH was pleased to support this trial.  It helps us understand what information is useful to farmers in finding ways to improve the resilience of nature, with benefits both for farmers and society.  Natural capital can be an off-putting phrase for farmers but farming has always been about preserving and enhancing natural capital. The work done on the Natural Capital Protocol will help inform our thinking about the future long term support for agriculture. It is noteworthy that the case studies showed a positive cost-benefit ratio from investing in soils, woodlands, wetlands or peatlands.”

Jonny Hughes, Chair of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, said:

“The trial of the Natural Capital Protocol at this farm and estate scale is a first not only in Scotland but globally. We are proud to have been one of the partners on this project with Crown Estate Scotland and congratulate them on the leading role they have taken on this very important area.
“Over 70% of Scotland’s land is designated for agricultural use, meaning that land managers can have a big impact on our natural capital. By better understanding our impacts and dependencies on soil, water and other forms of natural capital, land managers can access the right information to help them develop the sustainable models that the industry needs. This will not only benefit their businesses, but society and nature as well.”

Terry A’Hearn, Chief Executive at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), said:

“Every day we work to protect and enhance Scotland's environment, helping communities and businesses thrive within the resources of our planet. This is at the core of our regulatory strategy One Planet Prosperity.
“Planet Earth provides everything we need for our health, well-being and prosperity – air, water, food, raw materials, energy, and processes which break down wastes. If everyone lived as we in Scotland do, we would need the resources of almost three planets to support ourselves. We are pleased to support this important trial which will help the farmers involved better understand where there are opportunities to develop their businesses within the resources of one planet.”

Cumulus Consultants and Aecom undertook the trial project, working alongside Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Land & Estates, the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, the James Hutton Institute and SRUC. The pilot project was funded by Crown Estate Scotland, SNH and SEPA.


To read the full published reports click here.


For more information please contact Barbara Fraser at Pagoda PR on 0131 556 0770 or call John Lang at Crown Estate Scotland on 07741 801225.