Scottish Natural Heritage recently worked with consultancy Economics for the Environment (eftec) to test a natural capital accounting approach for the land they own, or substantially manage, as National Nature Reserves. 

The natural capital balance sheet, published in December 2019, is the first to be produced for SNH, and focuses on ecosystem services that flow from SNH land including: food, energy, carbon sequestration, air quality, physical health, recreation & tourism, education & volunteering and wildlife.

It has been trialled as part of the ongoing SNH role in promoting the concept of natural capital. The natural capital account uses an evolving methodology, which will require further refinement, however wherever possible, it has attributed a monetary value to benefits from nature.

The accounts estimated the net natural capital of the 56,000 hectares of land at £683m over 60 years. This provided annual benefits of £28 million, and with annual management costs estimated to be £3.5million, means the overall benefits are worth eight times the cost. Furthermore this is likely a cautious estimate, given not all natural capital benefits could be valued, (flood risk management being one example)

As land use and land reform discussions continue in Scotland in the face of both climate and ecological emergencies, it is likely to become increasingly important for land owners and managers to consider how best they can use their land to deliver public goods. As a consequence of their own review, SNH hope both to stimulate further discussion and interest in the concept, and reappraise their own NNR Reserve Management Plan to maximise natural capital returns for their NNRs into the future.


Read more about the SNH approach here