Yesterday, SNH became the first public body in Scotland to publish a set of natural capital accounts taking stock of the climate, tourism, recreational and health benefits brought about by its 56,000 hectares, comprised mainly of national nature reserves (NNRs).
Natural capital is a measure of the natural world and its impact upon people, which can then be accounted for with a monetary value of the benefits they bring. For example, a tree has a timber value determined by the market (provisionary service), it also sucks carbon out of the atmosphere and helps reduce flood risk (regulatory service) and also provides other benefits such as an amenity value to people such as walkers (cultural service).
SNH calculated its £683m net natural capital figure over the life of the asset of 60 years, in line with UK government guidance.
The lion’s share of the figure was made up from recreation and tourism revenues (worth £666.2m) and the £70.3m in benefits brought about from carbon sequestration – a calculation of tonnes of CO2 equivalent that were locked up each year helping to regulate the environment and reduce climate change impacts, the report said.
The impacts brought about by improved air quality were also calculated by modelling forests on SNH land, which suggested that the ability of forests to trap harmful pollutants was saving the NHS £73k a year in medical costs.
Overall, the report shows that the value of the benefits from SNH land is eight times higher than the costs to maintain them.
According to SNH’s press statement, the true value of its natural capital accounts may be much higher as it is currently not possible to measure other advantages such as water quality, mental health benefits and flood risk mitigation.
In October, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) placed a partial value of the UK’s natural capital at £951 billion.
To view SHN’s natural capital report in full click here