The Solent Forum

Working in partnership for the future

Natural Capital

Natural capital refers to the biological, physical and chemical resources/assets, known as ‘Stock’. According to agreed convention, this Stock broadly includes biodiversity (ecological communities), soils, freshwater, land, minerals, atmosphere (air), subsoil assets, and oceans. The benefits to people that flow directly from this Stock are known commonly as ‘ecosystem services’ or ‘Flows’. A financial analogy is that services are the ‘income and expenditure’ accounts of a natural capital balance sheet. Services and Benefits can be turned into/traded and/or monetised goods for society. The natural capital approach starts with an audit of the Stock, an assessment of its condition, and the recognition/qualification of the Services and Benefits.

The Marine Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment Programme (mNCEA) is a part of the broader Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment Programme. It aims to create a platform for a thriving marine environment where nature is central to decision-making. This programme is Defra’s flagship 3-year research and development initiative designed to provide a robust evidence base, tools, and a framework that integrates ecological, societal, and economic information in a holistic manner. The UK’s marine natural capital assets are estimated to have an asset value of £211 billion. These assets play a crucial role in climate regulation by sequestering and storing carbon, hosting a rich biodiversity, and providing adaptation benefits such as reducing flood risk.

The diagram below illustrates how the indicators for coastal habitat quantity are connected to ecosystem services, benefits and values. Source: Natural England's Natural Capital Asset Atlas for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.

The Hampshire 2050 Commission of Inquiry identified that Hampshire’s natural environment is a significant and valued asset. To inform understanding of Hampshire’s natural environment, it prepared a report providing a high-level ‘snapshot’ of many key elements of Hampshire’s natural environment. The report has a base date of January 2020 and has been produced with input from partners and stakeholders.

In March 2019, Portsmouth University was commissioned by the Environment Agency to provide a strategic update of the natural capital value of habitats and species in the context of water quality for the Solent and Isle of Wight area. The overall aim was to provide evidence to help value the changes in the level of ecosystem service that could result from changes in the quality of benthic habitats as a result of increasing or reducing nutrients.

In 2021, the Life Recreation Reducing and Mitigating Erosion and Disturbance Impacts affEcting the Seabed (ReMEDIES) project published a report using natural capital indicators to explore the distribution and condition of seagrass in the Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and the ecosystem services seagrass provides to society.


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