Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hidden value of nature revealed in UK study
The true value of nature can be shown for the very first time thanks to ... research by hundreds of UK scientists.

The research forms the basis of a major new independent report – the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) – which reveals that nature is worth billions of pounds to the UK economy. The report strengthens the arguments for protecting and enhancing the environment and will be used by the government to direct policy in future.

The UK NEA has used new approaches to estimate the value of the natural world by taking account of the economic, health and social benefits we get from nature.

While in the past people may have thought that caring for the environment meant extra financial burdens, the UK NEA shows that there are real economic reasons for looking after nature. The NEA also shows that the benefits we get to our health, well being and from the enjoyment of nature have not always been fully appreciated or valued.

The assessment provides values for a range of ecosystem services to help us fully understand the value of the natural environment and how the benefits to individuals and society as a whole can be better protected and preserved for future generations.

Examples include:
  • The benefits that inland wetlands bring to water quality are worth up to £1.5billion per year to the UK;
  • Pollinators are worth £430million per year to British agriculture;
  • The amenity benefits of living close to rivers, coasts and other wetlands is worth up to £1.3billion per year to the UK; and
  • The health benefits of living with a view of a green space are worth up to £300 per person per year.
The UK NEA shows that the tendency to focus only on the market value of resources we can use and sell, such as timber, crops and fisheries, has led to the decline of some ecosystems and habitats through pollution, over-exploitation, and land conversion.

It warns that continued population growth and climate change are likely to put additional pressure on ecosystems, and that actions taken now will have consequences far into the future. It stresses the need for a more collaborative approach to enhancing our environment, with everyone playing their part to capture more of nature’s benefits in a sustainable way. Six future scenarios have been developed showing how ecosystems could be affected over the next 50 years depending on what emphasis is given to environmental sustainability or economic growth.
The UK NEA examines the state of the full range of services provided across eight different habitats including marine, woodlands, wetlands and moorlands. It shows that while some ecosystems are getting better at delivering services, such as crop production from farmland and climate regulation by woodlands, over 30% of services assessed were found to be in decline, and others degraded, such as marine fisheries, wild species diversity and soil quality.

Copies of the synthesis report and the full technical findings are available to download:
United Kingdom Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Press Release dated June 2, 2011

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