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Natural Capital Protocol can help monitor the impact of different farming activities

Scottish farmers to trial ‘valuing’ nature

Scottish farmers are to take part in a pioneering project to assess the value of natural assets to help them make decisions that will protect the environment and the land that they work on.

The trial will apply the international Natural Capital Protocol to land-based businesses on two estates in Moray which are run by Crown Estate Scotland, helping put Scotland at the forefront of developing new ways of assessing how we manage land and our environment.

‘Natural Capital’ covers natural assets including geology, soil, air, water and all living things, which provide humans with a wide range of services. These include the food we eat, the water we drink and the plant materials we use for fuel, building materials and medicines, as well as climate regulation and natural flood defences provided by forests, the billions of tonnes of carbon stored by peatlands, and the pollination of crops by insects.

The pilot will cover 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 that same estate, and a lowland arable business on the Crown Estate Scotland’s Fochabers Estate.

Head of Property, Andy Wells, said the pilot project would help Crown Estate Scotland identify if Natural Capital Protocol provides a practical way of helping rural businesses understand their impact and dependency on the natural environment.

He said, “It’s a toolkit which helps businesses identify how natural resources contribute to their long-term profitably and how their activities impact those resources. Using the protocol enables businesses to make more sustainable decisions and account for the elements of nature that provide important ‘services’ to people.

“By running the trial on a full estate as well as two different types of farms we will be able to see how land businesses can potentially use the information to make better business decisions.

“The rural sector in Scotland and across the UK is facing a lot of uncertainty and, with the EU subsidies and funding likely to be phased out in coming years, this project may provide some useful insights into different ways of measuring the impact of what we do to our land.”

Crown Estate Scotland has appointed Cumulus Consultants to undertake the pilot 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 is funded by Crown Estate Scotland, SNH and SEPA.

Claudia Rowse, SNH’s head of rural resources, said, “A prosperous Scotland is underpinned by ongoing investment in its precious natural capital. Helping businesses identify challenges and opportunities in managing their land in terms of natural capital will encourage necessary investment in Natural Capital.  We are delighted to be working with Crown Estate Scotland who are leading the way in demonstrating how land-based businesses can invest in natural capital as part of a wider approach to managing their financial assets.”

In November, Crown Estate Scotland, will contribute insights on its work at the World Forum on Natural Capital which will take place in Edinburgh. The pilot project will be completed in March 2018.