Natural capital is composed of many assets, including soils, wetlands, urban greenspaces, hedgerows and so on, as well as a range of services. But not all of these are easily measured or monetised and their interactions can be complex.
The natural capital assets we work on with landowners typically fall into five categories:
Erosion, the run-off of fertiliser and slurries from farmland can all affect water quality.
Cover crops and grass margins are just a couple of effective land management practices that help to reduce run-off, pollution and limit nutrient losses to water. Simple land management interventions can have significant benefits, and these are measurable.
Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) requires developers to offset any loss in biodiversity caused by their activities that they cannot accommodate on their sites. This is a good opportunity for landowners that have land with potential for ecological enhancement. Developers would pay for these ecological enhancements and the landowners would get paid for maintaining this interest for 30 years. These are long-term land-use change agreements so do need to be balanced against other future uses and our advice can assist in determining the right way forwards.
Woodland and tree planting is a well-publicised means of mitigating climate change and reversing biodiversity loss.
Incentives for woodland creation and management of existing woodlands come in three possible revenue streams: government support, carbon payments and private finance. This carbon code has also now been extended to hedgerows too.
Taking steps to improve slurry storage, incorporate manures and increase the accuracy of nitrogen fertiliser applications can help reduce emissions, particularly of methane, ammonia and NOx.
With agriculture responsible for 10% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, farmland activities and land management are important considerations. Trends like regenerative farming and other practices can help move farms onto a net zero carbon track. The activities undertaken to tackle carbon emissions can also have other natural capital benefits that should also be measured and where possible rewarded.
Soil plays a pivotal role in nutrient carbon storage, water quality, nutrient cycling and flood prevention. All of these factors can attract financial support in the future, but are also paramount in sustainable food production now.
Rewetting of peatland soils and peat restoration is another recognised carbon code process. Mechanisms for recognising soil carbon and wetland carbon capture are coming, so it is important to quantitatively measure any planned changes now so these can be registered and certified in due course.