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The natural capital framework for sustainably efficient and equitable decision making

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Abstract

The concept of ‘natural capital’ is gaining traction internationally as recognition grows of the central role of the natural environment in sustaining economic and social well-being. It is therefore encouraging to see the first signs of a ‘natural capital approach’ to decision making being accepted within government policy processes and the private sector. However, there are multiple different understandings of this ‘approach’, many of which misuse or omit key features of its foundations in natural science and economics. To address this, we present a framework for natural capital analysis and decision making that links ecological and economic perspectives. The natural capital concept is making way into government policy processes and the private sector, but different understandings of the approach might lead to misuse or omissions. In order to address this issue, a comprehensive framework for natural capital analysis and decision making is presented.

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... The progressive move towards bringing real-world complexity into forestry planning is driven by an ongoing adoption of environmentaleconomic systems thinking into policy decision making more generally (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Within the UK, this has been conceptualised through the incorporation of the natural capital framework (Bateman & Mace, 2020;Dasgupta, 2021;Maddison & Day, 2015;Natural Capital Committee, 2013;UK NEA, 2011) as the bedrock of policy formation regarding the relationship between the environment, economy and well-being, as reflected in the 25-Year Plan for the Environment (H.M. Government, 2018) and the Environment Bill (2020). Government advice on the practical enabling of the natural capital approach has recently been issued (Defra, 2020) while official Treasury guidance on the appraisal and evaluation of public spending projects has been reformulated to place natural capital principles at its heart (HM Treasury, 2020), an approach endorsed by the UNEP (2021). ...
... As such non-use values are often not reflected in observable behaviour, some advocate the use of survey based stated preference valuation techniques (Tonin, 2019). However, these methods have significant drawbacks as discussed by Bateman and Mace (2020). ...
... Those that are unable to deliver the level of biodiversity net gain necessary to satisfy adequate compensation rules are prevented from proceeding. In this manner, the issue of biodiversity can be brought within the remit of economic decision making (Bateman & Mace, 2020) this is yet to be reflected on the ground. ...
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We outline the principles of the natural capital approach to decision making and apply these to the contemporary challenge of very significantly expanding woodlands as contribution to attaining net zero emissions of greenhouse gases. Drawing on the case of the UK, we argue that a single focus upon carbon storage alone is likely to overlook the other ‘net zero plus’ benefits which woodlands can deliver. A review of the literature considers the wide variety of potential benefits which woodlands can provide, together with costs such as foregone alternative land uses. We argue that decision making must consider all of these potential benefits and costs for the right locations to be planted with the right trees. The paper closes by reviewing the decision support systems necessary to incorporate this information into policy and decision making. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.
... Using natural capital; the stocks of renewable and nonrenewable natural assets that benefit people both directly and indirectly, and the flow of ecosystem services these provide, as a method of understanding how the environment sustains society has been a well-established concept within academic literature for almost 30 years (Bateman & Mace, 2020;Constanza & Daly, 1992) with a significant debate on the application and use of the concepts (Chan & Satterfield, 2020;Spash & Hache, 2021). In addition, the concept of 'Nature's Contribution to People' has been a more recent addition to reflect wider understandings and definitions from non-Western and capitalist societies (IPBES, 2019). ...
... These trade-offs between individual ecosystem services enable an over-simplification of the ecosystem services approach which may promote unsustainable management choices that do not account for continued delivery of all services to society (Gokhelashvili, 2015). Continued disregard of less 'attractive' ecosystem services, such as supporting, will lead to the overall depletion of natural assets that society relies upon (Bateman & Mace, 2020). The use of ecosystem services for sustainability is widespread, but it has been identified that when applied as a boundary object, where both interdisciplinary and normative perspectives are applied, transformative application for policy interventions, participation and management can be successful (Abson et al., 2014;Boeraeve et al., 2018). ...
... Connected to the concept of 'wicked problems' solving complex, multi-dimensional environmental issues have no clear solutions (DeFries & Nagendra, 2017). However, using the systems perspective of natural capital, with the addition of successful and diverse participation and overall aim of increasing human well-being, could begin to address these issues (Bateman & Mace, 2020;DeFries & Nagendra, 2017;McShane et al., 2011). ...
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Article
The rights all people have for involvement in environmental decision making has long been established yet collaborative resource management has had mixed success. Natural capital; the renewable and non‐renewable natural assets that benefit societies, and the flow of ecosystem services these assets provide, are increasingly promoted as approaches that ensure consideration of the environment in decision making. Natural capital and ecosystem services concepts can facilitate participation in decision making by explicitly describing the role of the environment in sustaining society. Increased promotion of these approaches requires consideration on how best to involve stakeholders, those involved and affected by a decision, in the process. We conducted a systematic search to identify where stakeholders have participated in natural capital, ecosystem services and nature’s contributions to people decision making, creating a systematic map of 56 case studies. While many papers discussing stakeholders and these concepts were found, few actively engaged stakeholders in a decision‐making process that used the concepts and therefore were included in the map. Where stakeholders were involved, engagement methods included focus group discussion, stakeholder negotiation and scenario development, as well as ecosystem service ranking and mapping. Ranking for prioritisation of ecosystem services was common, with a bias towards using services with a direct tangible economic benefit; food production and tourism, are both prominent examples. A limited number of case studies performed robust participatory methods evaluations, offering little indication of how best to use natural capital or ecosystem services in participatory approaches. Therefore, the work highlights need for greater evaluation of participatory processes involving natural capital to ensure stakeholder engagement is efficient, productive and useful to all involved. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.
... Natural Capital (NC); the stocks of renewable and non-renewable natural resources that benefit people both directly and indirectly, and the flow of ecosystem services (ESS) these provide, have been increasingly recognised for their central role in sustaining economic and social wellbeing, societal resilience and sustainable development (Bateman and Mace, 2020;Guerry et al., 2015). As a result, NC has been incorporated into government policy processes (Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, 2020) and private sector decision making (Natural Capital Coalition, 2016;La Notte et al., 2017;Seppelt et al., 2011). ...
... A recent study of decision makers in local authorities found a need for simple tools that allow incorporation of the importance of nature and green infrastructure into development projects (Pluchinotta et al., 2021b). Achieving this presents significant challenges, largely due to framework limitations and a lack of suitable headline indicators for assessing NC performance and measuring trade-offs between multiple interacting elements (Bateman and Mace, 2020). Emerging techniques that use outcome-based metrics and incremental management to progressively enhance ecosystem condition, and incorporate diverse stakeholders requirements and opinions across scales, sectors and knowledge systems, show promise, but are underdeveloped at present (Bateman and Mace, 2020). ...
... Achieving this presents significant challenges, largely due to framework limitations and a lack of suitable headline indicators for assessing NC performance and measuring trade-offs between multiple interacting elements (Bateman and Mace, 2020). Emerging techniques that use outcome-based metrics and incremental management to progressively enhance ecosystem condition, and incorporate diverse stakeholders requirements and opinions across scales, sectors and knowledge systems, show promise, but are underdeveloped at present (Bateman and Mace, 2020). ...
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Article
Natural capital plays a central role in urban functioning, reducing flooding, mitigating urban heat island effects, reducing air pollution, and improving urban biodiversity through provision of habitat space. There is also evidence on the role played by blue and green space in improving physical and mental health, reducing the burden on the health care service. Yet from an urban planning and development view, natural capital may be considered a nice to have, but not essential element of urban design; taking up valuable space which could otherwise be used for traditional built environment uses. While urban natural capital is largely recognised as a positive element, its benefits are difficult to measure both in space and time, making its inclusion in urban (re)development difficult to justify. Here, using a London case study and information provided by key stakeholders, we present a system dynamics (SD) modelling framework to assess the natural capital performance of development and aid design evaluation. A headline indicator: Natural Space Performance, is used to evaluate the capacity of natural space to provide ecosystem services, providing a semi-quantitative measure of system wide impacts of change within a combined natural, built and social system. We demonstrate the capacity of the model to explore how combined or individual changes in development design can affect natural capital and the provision of ecosystem services, for example, biodiversity or flood risk. By evaluating natural capital and ecosystem services over time, greater justification for their inclusion in planning and development can be derived, providing support for increased blue and green space within cities, improving urban sustainability and enhancing quality of life. Furthermore, the application of a SD approach captures key interactions between variables over time, showing system evolution while highlighting intervention opportunities.
... Influences among sectors and SDG targets. Ecosystems and socio-economic sectors can directly influence SDG targets, based on the concept that these sectors provide services critical for development 7,10,30,31 . This first step of identifying potential influences involved content analyses of whether an SDG target is directly described in terms of the services a sector provides (see worked example in Supplementary Table 3 Depending on their context, these ecosystems provide regulating (flood protection or carbon sequestration), provisioning (food, water, energy or medicines), supporting (habitat) and cultural services (heritage, recreational) that are critical for sustainable development 7,32 . ...
... Given the focus of this framework on a holistic set of internationally classified sectors, further integration with input-output models 64 could enable better quantifications of the cascading effects across sectors in influencing sustainable development outcomes. Multi-criteria decision analysis can help simulate the reliability, multifunctionality 30 and potential maladaptation consequences 65 of nature-based solutions alongside engineering-based adaptation options 66 , including in the context of the SDG targets. ...
... As the influence analysis in this paper (Step 2) focused on the service level, future work could group the service-level influences under different sector categories in ways that considers national differences. Future work is also required to better conceptualise the full range of services provided by each sector, especially in the context of ecosystems for which service allocation is complex 76 and which often varies across spatial and temporal scales 30 . An understanding of the spatial and temporal changes in different services provided by ecosystems is crucial for sustainable ecosystem management 77,78 . ...
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Article
The international community has committed to achieve 169 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets by 2030 and to enhance climate adaptation under the Paris Agreement. Despite the potential for synergies, aligning SDG and climate adaptation efforts is inhibited by an inadequate understanding of the complex relationship between SDG targets and adaptation to impacts of climate change. Here we propose a framework to conceptualise how ecosystems and socio-economic sectors mediate this relationship, which provides a more nuanced understanding of the impacts of climate change on all 169 SDG targets. Global application of the framework reveals that adaptation of wetlands, rivers, cropland, construction, water, electricity, and housing in the most vulnerable countries is required to safeguard achievement of 68% of SDG targets from near-term climate risk by 2030. We discuss how our framework can help align National Adaptation Plans with SDG targets, thus ensuring that adaptation advances, rather than detracts from, sustainable development. Without targeted climate adaptation, impacts of climate change threaten achievement of all 169 SDG targets. Fuldauer et al. provide an actionable framework to assess these impacts and help systematically align national adaptation plans with the SDGs.
... For the purpose of monitoring the contribution of nature to welfare, natural capital accounting potentially has multifaceted roles in policy. Estimating the quantity and assessing the quality of natural capital assets systematically, as well as the benefits they provide to the economy and society, reveals how the use of resources influences economic development, thus providing opportunities for increasing the efficient use of natural resources, as well as for their protection [22,23]. The identification of pressures and possible risks provides the basis for an evaluation of the effectiveness of policy instruments, and fosters the adoption of practices that promote sustainability [24]. ...
... Natural capital accounting can be used in parallel to other economic methods, such as Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) suggested by WFD supporting documents (e.g., WATECO 2003). While CBA considers the flows of services and their benefits, natural capital accounting considers the stocks of natural resources, thus incorporates sustainability considerations that cannot be captured by CBA [23]. ...
... Natural capital accounts assess the stock value of natural capital and can signal whether PoMs contribute to sustainability. This is particularly important for appraisals of spending options, where considerations such as securing benefits for future generations need to be considered [23]. For the purposes of the WFD, such information can supplement cost-benefit analysis, which focuses on the flow of benefits from nature [140]. ...
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Article
In the European Union, the Water Framework Directive provides a roadmap for achieving good water status and sustainable water usage, and a framework for the information, types of analysis, and interventions required by the Member States. Lack of previous knowledge in, and understanding of, interdisciplinary approaches across European countries has led to applications of corrective measures that have yielded less than favourable results. The natural capital paradigm, the assessment and monitoring of the value of natural capital, has the potential to convey information on the use of water resources and improve the connection between implemented measures and changes in the status of the resources, thus enhancing the effectiveness of policy interventions. In this paper, we present the natural capital accounting methodology, adapted to the requirements of the Directive, and demonstrate its application in two European catchments. Using economic methods, the asset value of two ecosystem services was estimated and associated with changes in water status due to policy instruments. Findings demonstrate that the asset value of water for residential consumption and recreational purposes fluctuates from year to year, influenced by current and future uses. Consequently, managing authorities should consider both current and emerging pressures when designing interventions to manage water resource sustainably.
... Incorporating the assessment of ecosystem services, the benefits that humans receive from ecosystems, into land management decisions is increasingly recognized as an opportunity to support sustainable development (Bateman & Mace, 2020;Guerry et al., 2015). ...
... Impacts associated with intensive agricultural production systems on natural and semi-natural ecosystems are of growing concern (Garibaldi et al., 2017). Consequently, numerous efforts are underway to operationalize ecosystem service frameworks as tools for decision-making (Bateman & Mace, 2020). Yet, mainstreaming ecosystem services into land management has proven challenging (Reyers et al., 2015). ...
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Article
Incorporating the assessment of ecosystem services into land management decisions is increasingly recognized as an opportunity to support sustainable development. This, however, can be particularly challenging within the productive sector; a highly technical system often driven by multi‐level private entities. Here we present five key challenges, and suggest their corresponding solutions, when promoting the operationalization of ecosystem services within agribusiness. The challenges we developed are: i) Building a common understanding of ecosystem services; ii) Navigating strong power dynamics; iii) A highly technical system with diverse types of expertise; iv) Limited understanding of the opportunity costs of alternative practices; and v), Dealing with uncertainty. We draw on our experience generated through the Wine, Climate Change and Biodiversity (WCCB) programme, a science‐based initiative promoting the conservation of biodiversity and strategic use of ecosystem services in Chilean vineyards. Synthesis and applications. This perspective piece provides advice to scientists and practitioners on how to navigate technical and practical challenges when promoting the incorporation of ecosystem services into agricultural management. While the assessment of ecosystem services can be a highly technical process, its successful integration into land management decisions relies on active engagement, balancing expectations and an ability to construct a shared understanding among different stakeholders. The approaches suggested here rely on principles of co‐production and are illustrated with examples that are transferable to other crop and geographical contexts.
... Natural capital accounting tends toward 'an anthropogenic framing' (Bateman and Mace, 2020, p.776), which views natural capital in terms of what it can provide to humans (Virto et al., 2018). However natural capital accounting can also be used to value the stocks and condition of abiotic and biotic natural assets, in and of themselves, and therefore can include their import to non-humans, and future generations of people and animals (Bateman and Mace, 2020). When considered in this way, NCA is important for decisions about production, conservation and sustainability, but intrinsic values are hard to capture and to account for (e.g. ...
... In terms of achieving mainstream social change, it is essential that we start to better realise and represent the role of nature in our decisions, at all sectors and scales. NCA is a promising way to achieving that social change (Costanza, 2020;Bateman and Mace, 2020) and it was consistently supported by participants as a worthwhile area to continue to build and grow. ...
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Article
Environmental issues are becoming more urgent. Biodiversity loss, climate change, extreme events and global pressures on resources place increasing importance on decision making about how natural resources should be managed. Natural capital accounting (NCA) is gaining popularity as a systematic approach to recognise the full value of natural resources such as soil, vegetation, animals, water, and biodiversity. To understand perceptions and opportunities for awareness and behaviour change relating to the use of NCA, we conducted a discourse analysis of 57 interviews with stakeholders across Australia. Our aim is to promote discussion and reflection about perceptions of natural resources as forms of capital, and the role of NCA to underpin management practice change and support sustainability. We identify four key areas of contestation that relate to values, complexity, digital technology, and the desired future vision of NCA in society. Findings include conflicting views around whether NCA should have a diversity of tailored approaches or a consistent approach for all and that digital technology has and will continue to shape the way NCA is conducted. To our knowledge, this is the first paper to take a discourse analysis approach to perceptions of natural capital accounting.
... The SEEA EA presents a geospatial approach, whereby ecosystem stocks (extent and condition) and flows (services and benefits) are recorded and tracked over time, serving to account for nature's contributions to human well-being (Obst 2015;Hein et al. 2020a;Farrell et al. 2021a). Adopted as a statistical standard by the UN in 2021, trials at national (Hein et al. 2020b) and catchment scale (Farrell et al. 2021a(Farrell et al. , 2021b have demonstrated that the SEEA EA framework facilitates an integrated data platform and a means to incorporate natural capital (as per the definition by the Capitals Coalition, which includes additional aspects of the natural systems such as soils and mineral aggregates alongside ecosystems) into existing ways of public and business decision-making at all levels (Bateman & Mace 2020;Hein et al. 2020a;Farrell et al. 2021a). SEEA EA accounts, and broader natural capital accounts, can be used on their own or incorporated into other analyses, such as cost-benefit analysis, economic impact analysis, and other causal modeling techniques, providing the level of context necessary for integrated decision-making (Bateman & Mace 2020). ...
... Adopted as a statistical standard by the UN in 2021, trials at national (Hein et al. 2020b) and catchment scale (Farrell et al. 2021a(Farrell et al. , 2021b have demonstrated that the SEEA EA framework facilitates an integrated data platform and a means to incorporate natural capital (as per the definition by the Capitals Coalition, which includes additional aspects of the natural systems such as soils and mineral aggregates alongside ecosystems) into existing ways of public and business decision-making at all levels (Bateman & Mace 2020;Hein et al. 2020a;Farrell et al. 2021a). SEEA EA accounts, and broader natural capital accounts, can be used on their own or incorporated into other analyses, such as cost-benefit analysis, economic impact analysis, and other causal modeling techniques, providing the level of context necessary for integrated decision-making (Bateman & Mace 2020). Equally, the accounts can highlight areas that require restoration by identifying ecosystems that are declining, or have declined already, in extent and/or condition (Farrell et al. 2021c), serving as a readymade integrated monitoring tool to track changes in both ecosystem stocks and flows as a result of restoration measures (UNSD 2021;Vysna et al. 2021). ...
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Article
Combining natural capital accounting tools and ecosystem restoration approaches builds on existing frameworks to track changes in ecosystem stocks and flows of services and benefits as a result of restoration. This approach highlights policy relevant benefits that arise due to restoration efforts and helps to maximize opportunities for return on investment. Aligning the System of Environmental Economic Accounting – Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) framework with risk assessment tools, we developed a risk register for peatlands in two contrasting catchments in Ireland, based on available information relating to peatland stocks (extent and condition) and flows (services and benefits), as well as knowledge of pressures. This approach allowed for identification of areas to target peatland restoration, by highlighting the potential to reduce and reverse negative trends in relation to provisioning, regulating and cultural services, flows relating to non-use values, as well as abiotic flows. We also highlighted ways to reduce and reverse the effects of historical and ongoing pressures through restoration measures, aligning our approach with that outlined in the SER International Principles and Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration. Building on the synergies between the SEEA EA and the SER Standards is highlighted as a means to develop trans-disciplinary collaboration, to assist in setting and achieving targets set out under the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration as well as integrating regional policy targets set under the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, and the related EU Habitats and EU Water Framework Directives. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... For example, the effects of human-derived products, technology, and infrastructure (i.e., built or manufactured capital) as well as trust, community involvement, and social cohesion (i. e., social capital) are increasingly being considered in combination with natural capital (Barnes-Mauthe et al., 2015;Bateman and Mace, 2020;Chen and Graedel, 2015;Jones et al., 2016). ...
... Our perspective highlighted that degraded ESs can be reduced by investing in both natural capital and built/human capital. More effective strategies are needed to support the sustainable management of natural capital, which aims to ensure the flow of benefits by maintaining the condition of natural capital stocks (Bateman and Mace, 2020). By mapping out polluters and their impacts after the interactions of various capital, our framework is useful for identifying where to improve natural capital from a policy perspective. ...
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Article
To sustain water-dependent economic and socio-ecological systems, natural capital and its interactions with other types of capital is gaining attention, but a clear understanding of how to manage natural capital sustainably and how to make decisions relevant to water-related ecosystem services is yet to be achieved. In this study, we extended the framing of water-related ecosystem service flows by integrating water quantity and quality; capturing the flows of ecosystem services (i.e., green phase) and degraded ecosystem services (i.e., red phase); and connecting natural capital, built/human capital (i.e., water supply and wastewater treatment), and beneficiaries. We applied this framework to the Jiulong River watershed in China, using hydrological models to model water quantity and quality based on historical observations and experimental data. Our results showed that, during the green phase, the interactions of natural capital and built/human capital significantly improved water quality in downstream areas with higher flows. During the red phase, built/human capital reduced nitrogen by ~ 10% while natural capital further reduced it by over one half, which improved the water quality of degraded ecosystem services. Our extended water-related ecosystem services framework can provide explicit information for integrated basin management via investment in natural and built capital, eco-compensation schemes, and pollutant management.
... Most recently, the concept of "natural capital" has gained traction as a way to acknowledge the importance of the natural environment on economic and social well-being, and is likely to become part of decision-making processes within governments and industries [36]. Noteworthy contributions to create an assessment framework include that of Bateman and Mace [36] and the "NCIF" of Fairbrass et al. [37]. ...
... Most recently, the concept of "natural capital" has gained traction as a way to acknowledge the importance of the natural environment on economic and social well-being, and is likely to become part of decision-making processes within governments and industries [36]. Noteworthy contributions to create an assessment framework include that of Bateman and Mace [36] and the "NCIF" of Fairbrass et al. [37]. Their approach consider and encompass more comprehensively feedback flows and human-induced inputs and outputs over time, which present promising prospects of adaptation to the mining sector and could be complementary to the System Dynamic methodology presented later in this paper. ...
Article
The demand for minerals, metals and rare-earth elements is rapidly growing to support the transition to low-carbon energies, and the mining industry must increase its supply while facing complex Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risks. Traditionally relying on its engineering expertise to maximize ore extraction, the sector must now find ways to sustain its production while facing increased scrutiny from the public, civil societies and shareholders alike. The paper reviews current practice in sustainability assessment to highlight sector-specific characteristics and the notion of trust as central to effective project developments. Because the social interface of extractive operations is complex, dynamic and non-linear in nature, we recommend going beyond the aim of obtaining a social license to operate and use Systems Thinking to fully embed Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at the core of strategic mine planning. System Dynamics can foster interdisciplinary collaborations by bridging together social and technical flows within simulation models to identify sustainable levers of change. We present the development of a stock and flow model quantifying causal mechanisms between the use of cyanide, the environment, communities and public trust, and operational productivity. Industry practitioners, researchers and facilitators can use the model as an adaptable framework to engage with systems modelling in mining. We recommend its use in conjunction with meaningful stakeholder’s engagement to ensure shared understanding, reduced uncertainty and long-term benefits for all.
... The complexity of business-nature relations stems from how, across the biosphere, multiple human organisations interact with, and impact upon, multiple ecological biomes in multiple places (Cuckston, 2021). By reducing nature down to stocks of so-called environmental assets and flows of so-called ecosystem services, the economisation of nature as natural capital treats nature as if it is a simple economic resource, analogous to financial capital (Bateman & Mace, 2020;Mace, 2019). ...
... Indeed, nature conservation and restoration can be understood as the organising and managing of socio-ecological systems in particular places in ways that protect and enhance the integrity of the biomes in those places (Cuckston, 2021;Eden, Tunstall, & Tapsell, 2000). Initiatives aimed at economising nature purportedly seek to facilitate this organising and managing of nature by enabling managers to understand nature in economic terms (Bateman & Mace, 2020). ...
... The notion of natural capital is used to describe components of the natural environment that provide valuable goods or services that are critical for society including minerals, fuels, animals, plants or ecosystems [71][72][73]. The need to monitor the state and trends of natural capital has motivated the creation of the Natural Capital Index (NCI). ...
... The use of NCI allows policymakers to track their action and their progress in preserving or improving their natural capital, which includes preserving the biodiversity within their countries, preserving their natural resources and progressing towards a more sustainable development [71], [73]. The use of this framework encourages a transition away from production-based indicators towards the consideration of ecological assets, which can be aligned with some of the elements that compose the CE. ...
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Article
The circular economy has the potential to promote systemic change towards a sustainable future. However, the dominance of technical and market-oriented considerations has placed the circular economy as part of an eco-modernist agenda, which retains growth in gross domestic product as the overarching priority. In this context, we analyse 12 existing macroeconomic indicators, developed and implemented by governments and international organisations, and determine if they could enact alternative notions of circularity. Specifically, we focus on the performative role that indicators can play in both defining and surmounting such reductionist views, thus helping us to address the world we want to create. We find that many of these indicators are agents of the status quo, but that some could disrupt the omnipotence of GDP thereby getting the macroeconomic conditions right for a more ambitious understanding of the circular economy.
... Ecological knowledge and data are fundamental to ensure that the SEEA EA results are fit for purpose (i.e. they are relevant for each ecosystem type) and that they reflect the complexity of natural systems. This complexity emphasized by Bateman and Mace (2020) needs to be incorporated into measures of ecosystems' extent and type, changes in their condition, in the selection of appropriate reference levels (in local and regional contexts), in measuring the bundles of services (both those already included and those heretofore un-recognized) they deliver, and in accounting for the interactions between ecosystems (UNSD 2021). Ecological knowledge is also required to ensure that restoration efforts are focused on restoring ecosystem health and resilience, both of which can serve to address climate and biodiversity targets, while at the same time ensuring unintended biodiversity losses through ill-informed practices are avoided. ...
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Article
The UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration offers a vital opportunity to advance scaled-up, integrated approaches that reverse ecosystem degradation, biodiversity loss, and climate disruption and deterioration. Combining tools across disciplines is essential to addressing these interwoven, global crises through inclusive, equitable strategies with demonstrable socio-economic benefits. Tools and initiatives described here, including the EcoHealth network, the System of Environmental Economic Accounting Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) and its application through the INCASE project in Ireland, and the Natural Capital Project, present ready-made approaches to engage with policymakers and stakeholders in a transparent way. These examples are working to yield accurate indicators revealing the true costs and benefits of restoration policies and projects in both environmental and social terms. We highlight that collaborative efforts, particularly engagement between ecologists, economists, and other stakeholders, are essential to inform the ongoing development of fit-for-purpose natural capital approaches, and that synergies between natural capital and restoration approaches can be further strengthened to raise awareness of, and progress, restoration projects on the scale the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration envisages. We also reflect on the term “natural capital” which is often misunderstood as implying that monetary metrics should take preference over non-monetary arguments or considerations, thereby presenting a barrier to engagement for some ecologists, environmentalists, and stakeholders. Natural capital approaches offer us opportunities to track and support the necessary changes to expand and embed the culture of restoration into decision making across sectors, highlighting multiple benefits for society and economy. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... However, global option value of biodiversity is neglected; biodiversity is only considered for its intrinsic value and to "enable the provision of biological processes such as production". This same problem is found in the recent proposed framework for integrating all "natural capital" into decision-making [12]. "Biodiversity" here is interpreted as having plural aspects, reflecting all of nature. ...
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Article
The term “biodiversity” generally refers to living variation. Biodiversity has recognized anthropocentric values of insurance and investment. Values of “nature” include those of biodiversity and also many other aspects reflecting the scope of human-nature relationships. Systematic conservation planning methods can integrate this range of local to global values. Early case studies in Australia and Papua New Guinea show the potential for such approaches. Recently, there have been calls for a recasting of the concept of biodiversity to capture plurality of values. However, balance among sometimes conflicting values of nature is best-served by a singular biodiversity concept and definition focused on variety, because this enables effective integration with other values of nature. Attempts at pluralistic recastings of biodiversity in fact may promote neglect of global biodiversity values. Further, an extended analysis of the Papua New Guinea case study shows that it cannot be argued that focusing on localized values of nature for conservation will effectively address regional/global scale conservation needs.
... Ecosystem loss and ongoing degradation is a global issue and widespread measures are required to reverse these trends (Díaz et al. 2019, Dasgupta 2021, particularly in the light of potential impacts of global climate change (IPCC 2021). Natural capital accounting is one of the emerging tools to better integrate biodiversity and climate considerations into public and business decision-making at all levels (Bateman and Mace 2020, Hein et al. 2020a, UNSD 2021. Incorporating approaches to the assessment of ecosystem stocks (their extent and condition) and the resultant effects on ecosystem flows (services and benefits), natural capital accounting presents a means to record and track changes over time through the development of time-series accounts, thereby increasing awareness of nature's contributions to human well-being (Obst 2015, Hein et al. 2020). ...
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Article
The United Nations System of Environmental and Economic Accounting - Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) is a geospatial approach, whereby existing data on ecosystem stocks and flows are collated to show changes over time. The framework has been proposed as a means to track and monitor ecosystem restoration targets across the EU. Condition is a key consideration in the conservation assessment of habitats protected under the EU Habitats Directive and ecosystem condition accounts are also integral to the SEEA EA. While SEEA EA accounts have been developed at EU level for an array for ecosystem types, condition accounts remain the least developed. Collating available datasets under the SEEA EA framework, we developed extent and rudimentary condition accounts for peatland ecosystems at catchment scale in Ireland. Information relating to peatland ecosystem sub-types or habitat types was collated for peatland habitats listed under Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive, as well as degraded peatlands not included in EU nature conservation networks. While data relating to peatland condition were limited, understanding changes in ecosystem extent and incorporating knowledge of habitat types and degradation served as a proxy for ecosystem condition in the absence of more comprehensive data. This highlighted the importance of the ecosystem extent account, which underpins all other accounts in the SEEA EA framework. Reflecting findings at EU level, drainage, disturbance and land conversion were identified as the main pressures affecting peatland condition. We highlighted a number of options to gather data to build more robust, time-series extent and condition accounts for peatlands at varying accounting scales. Overall, despite the absence of comprehensive data, bringing information under the SEEA EA framework is considered a good starting point, with the integration of expert ecological opinion considered essential to ensure development of reliable accounts, particularly when working at ecosystem sub-type (habitat type) and catchment scale.
... Existing institutions reveal the history and path-dependency of the forces that shaped them, as well as the modifications and adaptations that they accumulated over time (Bateman & Mace, 2020;Baumol et al., 1988;Freeman III et al., 2014). For example, the Aichi targets represent institutional history. ...
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This is the final text version of Chapter 4. A laid-out version of the full assessment report will be made available in the coming months.
... Third, linking place attachment to stated preference valuation estimates can have environmental policy implications. For example, we may better understand the distributional implications or equity aspects of specific management schemes (Bateman and Mace, 2020;Faccioli et al., 2020), which is important supplementary information in a social benefit-cost assessment (Boardman et al., 2017). ...
Preprint
Economists have neglected place attachment as a potential explanation for people’s preferences for environmental goods. We conducted the first discrete choice experiment to assess the place attachment concept in the valuation of and response to the place-specific environmental impact from a proposed wind farm in Norway. Place attachment increases required compensation for accepting the wind farm, strengthens resistance, and leads to a higher propensity to systematically choose the status quo option of no wind farm in the discrete choice experiment. This finding suggests that the so-called “not-in-my-backyard” (NIMBY) effect should be recognized as a rational response when people place a high value on local environmental amenities, including place identity and a sense of place.
... This prioritization supports what is also referred to as weak sustainability, as it relies on a fragile foundation if the health of marine ecosystems is not secured. Weak sustainability comes from an economic perception that all capitals are replaceable, i.e., natural capital can be replaced with the right financial or societal capital (Bateman and Mace, 2020). In contrast, planning that ensures environmental sustainability before addressing objectives for economic activities builds a strong and sustainable foundation for marine ecosystems and depending maritime economies, thus aiming for strong sustainability (Mee et al., 2008;Frazão Santos et al., 2014). ...
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Article
Ecosystems all over the world are under increasing pressure from human uses. The UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 (UN SDG 14) seeks to ensure sustainability below water by 2020; however, the ongoing biodiversity loss and habitat deterioration challenge the achievement of this goal. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is a developing practice with a similar objective to the UN SDG 14, albeit research shows that most MSP cases prioritize economic objectives above environmental objectives. This paper presents an assessment of how MSP can contribute to achieving the UN SDG 14. Results are presented in three steps. First, a representative definition of MSP is presented. Secondly, activities that can be addressed through MSP are laid out. Lastly, results are used to assess how MSP can contribute to the achievement of the UN SDG 14 targets and indicators. This assessment shows great potential for MSP to play a role in the achievement of the UN SDG 14.
... Natural capital is the world's stock of natural assets on which human well-being critically depends Natural capital includes air, water, soil, mineral resources and all living things and the complex interactions amongst and between these elements (Bateman and Mace, 2020). Natural capital consists of non-renewable natural capital (e.g. ...
... This type of matrix is constantly evolving due to professional discussion, new knowledge, or criticism in order to better integrate the matrix approach within the applied ES evaluation [30]. Matrix assessment of cultural ES can be used alone or incorporated into other analyses, such as cost-benefit analysis, economic impact analysis, and other causal modeling techniques that provide a higher level of context needed for integrated decision-making [55]. The use of higher spatial resolution data helped us to reduce data uncertainties, so in this respect the refinement of the LPIS data sets were more reliable than the CLC data set. ...
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Article
Cultural ecosystem services (ES) require a multidisciplinary approach. The aim of the study was to evaluate regional differences in the values of cultural ES in relation to natural capital in four small pilot regions of the Slovak Republic using a matrix system. The article is an approximation of the connection of the biophysical method of evaluation (matrix system) of cultural ES of natural capital with geospatial data at the regional level in the Slovak Republic. Within the natural potential of the ES cultural categories, we evaluated recreation and tourism, landscape character and aesthetics, natural and cultural heritage, knowledge base, and regional significance for the given region. The highest values of indices in all categories were found in the Brezno region. The results of the pilot regions of the Slovak Republic indicated that the terrain fragmentation in combination with a higher altitude and a larger area of forests and protected areas may represent significant factors influencing the potential of the area to provide the various benefits resulting from cultural ES. Even though there is significant monetary potential of cultural ES in the region, its intensive utilization is not readily apparent.
... Because this cannot be left to unfold naturally, there must be proactive efforts to identify the correct government authority (Doern, Castle, & Phillips, 2016;Phillips & Castle, 2021) and to engage strategically across multiple levels of government (Oliver and Cairney, 2019). NCAs are not widely adopted in policy practices worldwide, suggesting that policy relevance will require iterative work with policymakers, particularly since as Bateman and Mace (2020) acknowledge, when the framework is used by decision makers, "the definition of 'relevant effects' may differ." As with all policy processes, success in developing measures depends on having well-structured policy problems from the outset (i.e. ...
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Article
Global biodiversity is in crises. Recognition of the scale and pace of biodiversity loss is leading to rapid technological development in biodiversity science to identify species, their interactions, and ecosystem dynamics. National and international policy developments to stimulate mitigation and remediation actions are escalating to meet the biodiversity crises. They can take advantage of biosurveillance “big data” as evidence for more sweeping and impactful policy measures. The critical factor is translating biosurveillance data into the value-based frameworks underpinning new policy measures. An approach to this integration process, using natural capital accounting frameworks is developed.
... ,52 .The access to the UK Biobank data was granted to the authors after submitting project description with stated hypotheses and analysis plan. The study was preregistered at the Open Science Foundation Framework database (https:// osf. ...
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Article
The stock market is a bellwether of socio-economic changes that may directly affect individual well-being. Using large-scale UK-biobank data generated over 14 years, we applied specification curve analysis to rigorously identify significant associations between the local stock market index (FTSE100) and 479,791 UK residents’ mood, as well as their alcohol intake and blood pressure adjusting the results for a large number of potential confounders, including age, sex, linear and non-linear effects of time, research site, other stock market indexes. Furthermore, we found similar associations between FTSE100 and volumetric measures of affective brain regions in a subsample (n = 39,755; measurements performed over 5.5 years), which were particularly strong around phase transitions characterized by maximum volatility in the market. The main findings did not depend on applied effect-size estimation criteria (linear methods or mutual information criterion) and were replicated in two independent US-based studies (Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative; n = 424; performed over 2.5 years and MyConnectome; n = 1; 81 measurements over 1.5 years). Our results suggest that phase transitions in the society, indexed by stock market, exhibit close relationships with human mood, health and the affective brain from an individual to population level.
... Agricultural landscapes are essential to human well-being (Power, 2010). The people that live in agricultural landscapes shape the flows of services and disservices that originate from natural capital stocks (Vialatte et al., 2019), shaping their wellbeing (Bateman and Mace, 2020). Our framework allows the exploration of the causal pathways through which that happens. ...
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Article
Global demand for agricultural products continues to grow. However, efforts to boost productivity exacerbate existing pressures on nature, both on farms and in the wider landscape. There is widespread appreciation of the critical need to achieve balance between biodiversity and human well-being in rural tropical crop production landscapes, that are essential for livelihoods and food security. There is limited empirical evidence of the interrelationships between natural capital, the benefits and costs of nature and its management, and food security in agricultural landscapes. Agroforestry practices are frequently framed as win-win solutions to reconcile the provision of ecosystem services important to farmers (i.e., maintaining soil quality, supporting pollinator, and pest control species) with nature conservation. Yet, underlying trade-offs (including ecosystem disservices linked to pest species or human-wildlife conflicts) and synergies (e.g., impact of ecosystem service provision on human well-being) are seldom analysed together at the landscape scale. Here, we propose a systems model framework to analyse the complex pathways, with which natural capital on and around farms interacts with human well-being, in a spatially explicit manner. To illustrate the potential application of the framework, we apply it to a biodiversity and well-being priority landscape in the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania, a public-private partnership for increasing production of cash and food crops. Our framework integrates three main dimensions: biodiversity (using tree cover and wildlife as key indicators), food security through crop yield and crop health, and climate change adaptation through microclimate buffering of trees. The system model can be applied to analyse forest-agricultural landscapes as socio-ecological systems that retain the capacity to adapt in the face of change in ways that continue to support human well-being. It is based on metrics and pathways that can be quantified and parameterised, providing a tool for monitoring multiple outcomes from management of forest-agricultural landscapes. This bottom-up approach shifts emphasis from global prioritisation and optimisation modelling frameworks, based on biophysical properties, to local socio-economic contexts relevant in biodiversity-food production interactions across large parts of the rural tropics.
... Human well-being can benefit from natural resources, both directly and indirectly [42]. The cascade effect of cryosphere services in achieving the SDG targets is considered in an approach in the Guidance Note for Lead Authors of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report on Consistent Treatment of Uncertainties [43]. ...
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Article
The cryosphere is able to provide a variety of services for the benefit of human well-being and underpins regional sustainable development. The cryosphere deterioration induced by climate change is impacting the services and will subsequently impede the efforts to meet sustainable development goals (SDGs) in high mountain societies. Here, we detail the context of cryosphere services and establish a dataset for its linkage to SDGs. This allows us to uncover its roles in supporting SDGs, directly by a causal connection and indirectly through either cascading effects or interconnection among SDGs. We find that the SDGs in association with the basic needs of high mountain societies are mostly affected by the cryosphere services. The different types of services pitch in with distinctions to be embraced by various SDGs, whilst some play a prominent role in the contribution to a broad range of SDGs. We further investigate how the services behave in their contributions to SDGs, by taking a view via the lens of a network that deciphers the relationship between the services and SDG targets as well as the interconnections among SDG targets. With an insight into the centrality and modularity of services in the network, we then delineate the inherent criticality of services to SDG targets as a whole, and reveal the specificity of services that co-contribute to a cluster of SDG targets in each network community. We take out the services from the network and maintain their interlinks to the targets of each underlying SDG system represented in six key entry points, so that the services critical to the transformation pathways in the entry points for SDGs in high mountains can be identified. Finally, we discuss the trade-offs that can occur in high mountains, which is unique for the cryosphere services. It creates more complexity in the assessment of overall benefits that the cryosphere services may provide to SDGs, and urges the balance that has to be maintained in attaining those services for the transformation.
... Demonstrating the benefits of strengthened PAs to people is a likely prerequisite for societal support to maintain and improve upon the existing network while mitigating the risk of future downgrading, downsizing, or degazettement (legal removal of conservation status) (119). Financial benefits that come with strengthened PAs must be distributed appropriately and equitably within the country's political and social contexts, with the full inclusion of local communities at all stages (118,120). ...
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Article
Madagascar's unique biota is heavily affected by human activity and is under intense threat. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on the conservation status of Madagascar's terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity by presenting data and analyses on documented and predicted species-level conservation statuses, the most prevalent and relevant threats, ex situ collections and programs, and the coverage and comprehensiveness of protected areas. The existing terrestrial protected area network in Madagascar covers 10.4% of its land area and includes at least part of the range of the majority of described native species of vertebrates with known distributions (97.1% of freshwater fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals combined) and plants (67.7%). The overall figures are higher for threatened species (97.7% of threatened vertebrates and 79.6% of threatened plants occurring within at least one protected area). International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List assessments and Bayesian neural network analyses for plants identify overexploitation of biological resources and unsustainable agriculture as the most prominent threats to biodiversity. We highlight five opportunities for action at multiple levels to ensure that conservation and ecological restoration objectives, programs, and activities take account of complex underlying and interacting factors and produce tangible benefits for the biodiversity and people of Madagascar.
... Other outputs of the land include ecosystem services, which play an important role in the production of agricultural commodities. Ecosystem services (as defined by Smith et al., 2017) are the flows (material and immaterial) generated by the stocks of natural capital or resources through action by people (Bateman & Mace, 2020). Negative impacts T A B L E 1 Wellbeing dimensions based on Schaafsma and Gross-Camp (2021) ...
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Article
While international trade in agricultural commodities can spur economic development especially where governance is strong, there are also concerns about the local impacts of commodity production and their distribution. Previous frameworks have primarily focused on trade effects on environmental conditions in production regions, as well as economic growth and food security. Instead, we develop a conceptual framework for understanding the impact of agricultural trade on multidimensional wellbeing and equity. The purpose of the framework is to guide the analysis of the impacts of trade on people, by identifying the core concepts and organising the complexity of the local social impacts of global value chains. The framework is supported by evidence from studies on trade in soy, coffee, cocoa, and palm oil.
... The total extent (area) of benthic habitats is fixed in both reference condition (e.g., extent with 'median' conditions) and adjusted modelled reference condition scenarios (e.g., extent with sub-catchment condition information). This framework and procedure is in line with UK (ONS & Defra, 2017) and international (Bateman and Mace, 2020;SEEA and United Nations, 2021) guidance and implicitly involves local qualitative or quantitative adjustments of the initial NC stock. In the case of some angiosperm habitats (e.g., seagrass and reedbed) where there was no WFD regional data and the NE condition data was Unfavourable (Unknown Condition); it is assumed that they are providing an arithmetic median (Q2) level of ES. ...
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Article
Current approaches to measure ecosystem services (ES) within natural capital (NC) and nature-based solutions (NbS) assessments are generally coarse, often using a single figure for ecosystem services (e.g., nutrient remediation or blue carbon sequestration) applied to the local or national habitat stock, which fails to take account of local ecosystem conditions and regional variability. As such, there is a need for improved understanding of the link between habitat condition and ES provision, using comparable indicators in order to take more informed management decisions. Here the UK, Solent Marine Sites (SEMS) is used as a case study system to demonstrate how Water Framework Directive (WFD) ‘ecological status’ and other indicators of ecosystem condition (state or quality) can be coupled with habitat extent information to deliver a more precise locally-tailored NC approach for active coastal and marine habitat restoration. Habitat extent and condition data are collected for seven NbS relevant coastal habitats (littoral sediment, mat-forming green macroalgae, subtidal sediment, saltmarsh, seagrass, reedbeds and native oyster beds). The workflow includes: 1) biophysical assessment of regulatory ES; 2) monetary valuation; and 3) compilation of future scenarios of habitat restoration and creation. The results indicate that incorporating classifications by condition indices into local NC extent accounts improved ES benefits by 11–67%. This suggests that omitting condition from NC assessments could lead to undervaluation of ES benefits. Future scenarios of restoration in the SEMS also show that the additional regulatory benefits of reaching ‘Good’ ecological status are £376 million annually, but could be as much as £1.218 billion if ‘High‘status and all habitat creation targets were met. This evidence of the potential value of restoration and importance of including condition indices in assessments is highly relevant to consider when investing in water ecosystems conservation and restoration as called for by the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021−2030), and more generally in global nutrient neutrality and blue carbon policy strategies.
... It is essential to mention that MSP is related to two main different sustainability concepts depending on how the "natural capital" is perceived and considered (Qiu and Jones 2013;Bateman and Mace 2020). The first refers to the concept of "weak" sustainability and relates to the idea of promoting the Blue Economy by fostering the sustainable development of maritime sectors to achieve national sectoral interests (Jones et al. 2016). ...
... This requires us to care about the growth and distribution of ESs just as we used to care about economic wealth. After entering the Anthropocene, nature was no longer as endless as we thought but deeply influenced by human activities ( Bateman and Mace, 2020 ). We must understand and control our impact on the natural environment and ensure our activities are within a tolerable level for the earth's ecosystem ( Leach et al., 2013 ) to ensure that we can coexist harmoniously with the ecosystem for continuous benefits brought by the ESs chain. ...
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Article
Recent centuries have witnessed a considerable economic growth, but have also been accompanied by ecological deterioration which has led to the utility decline in every hard-won material wealth. Here we proposed a comprehensive framework for detecting these economic growth expenses, combining the ecosystem services chain with ecological economics principles. Remote sensing products, biophysical process modeling, and inferential geostatistics were comprehensively used in tracing the quantity and quality of natural capital, the total amount, and the fairness of human well-being in both ecological and economic aspects in the last two decades of China. We find that although the natural capital condition and ecosystem services in most parts of China are rising, they are declining in the most economically developed regions where the vast majority of the people lives. Furthermore, this decline is unequal, affecting different people due to the spatial mismatch between population and ecological services. Further promoting China's environment-friendly industrial system and the transaction of ecological products may help alleviate the decline and inequity of ecological well-being. This framework aims to provide an interdisciplinary dashboard to help identify and deal with risks on our way to prosperity for regions either within or beyond China.
... The main goal of ecological sustainability is related to the integrity of the environmental concept (Marques 2009). Natural ecosystems sustainability is a significant prerequisite and a durable approach for urban sustainable development accomplishment (Bateman et al. 2020). ...
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Conference Paper
The environmental fragility of cities and advanced urbanization has motivated extensive efforts to promote the sustainability of urban ecosystems. In this study, the most affecting factors for the ecological sustainability of the cities that can be achieved by UGS planning and design will be discussed, and the most important and key factors will be presented based on an international survey drown by international UGS experts and academicians.
... While the costs of environmental protection are relatively easy to quantify, the benefits are often less obvious and much more difficult to take into account 2,3 . Measuring the values of environmental benefits therefore offers an important counterweight to the costs that would otherwise dominate any decision-making process 4 . To better inform individuals and policymakers on how much they should protect the environment, considerable effort has been made over the past several decades to properly value the environment 5,6 . ...
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Article
One of the key obstacles to building public consensus regarding environmental problems is the fact that environmental benefits are valued differently by different individuals and across different regions. Lack of public consensus has fractured international and domestic agreements, preventing effective system implementation. However, where does the disparity come from? Here, we provide evidence that can help to understand such diversity by analysing large-scale survey data collected across G20 countries. Combining lifecycle impact assessment and economic valuation techniques, our analysis shows that people’s perceptions of environmental benefits are in fact diverse, but are determined by a few social indicators such as life expectancy, income and gender equality, as well as individual conditions such as relative income and subjective well-being. As these social- and individual-level conditions improve, people shift priorities and place more emphasis on less tangible environmental benefits (biodiversity conservation) rather than relatively tangible (health-related) ones. Focusing on such determinants and addressing the problems of inequality and well-being are critical to building public consensus and tackling global environmental issues practically. Our findings can illuminate a feasible step to global consensus and a sustainable society.
... Natural capital is a term commonly used and is defined by Bateman and Mace (2020) as ''those renewable and non-renewable natural resources (such as air, water, soils, and energy), stocks of which can benefit people both directly (for example, by delivering clean air) and indirectly (for example, by underpinning the economy)''. Biodiversity (genes, species and ecosystems) are a part of natural resources although they are not separately identified in the examples of this definition. ...
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Article
The COVID-19 pandemic and related social and economic emergencies induced massive public spending and increased global debt. Economic recovery is now an opportunity to rebuild natural capital alongside financial, physical, social and human capital, for long-term societal benefit. Yet, current decision-making is dominated by economic imperatives and information systems that do not consider society's dependence on natural capital and the ecosystem services it provides. New international standards for natural capital accounting (NCA) are now available to integrate environmental information into government decision-making. By revealing the effects of policies that influence natural capital, NCA supports identification, implementation and monitoring of Green Recovery pathways, including where environment and economy are most positively interlinked.
... This is basically consistent with the concept of ecological assets, which is widely used in the research of Chinese scholars [3][4][5][6][7]. The earliest concept related to ecosystem assets in the world is natural capital [8], including renewable and non-renewable natural resources (such as plants, animals, air, water, soils, energy, and minerals) [1, 9,10]. Ecosystem assets are an important part of natural capital [11] and are the material basis of ecosystem service functions and ecosystem service values, which are directly related to the well-being of human society and can be measured by area and quality [2,12]. ...
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Article
Land urbanization has reduced the amount of area for natural ecosystem assets. However, with the development of the social economy, will the quality of natural ecosystem assets be improved? If one comprehensively considers the changes in the area and quality of natural ecosystem assets, is the dominant impact of urbanization on natural ecosystem assets positive or negative? In this study, detailed research is conducted on the area, pattern, quality, and overall situation of the ecosystem assets in the Beijing–Tianjin–Hebei urban agglomeration during the rapid urbanization process. The impact of urbanization on the overall situation of ecosystem assets is also analyzed. The research methods used to generate statistics, accounting, and analysis of the ecosystem assets include ArcGIS, satellite remote sensing images, R language programming, and other data analysis tools. The research results show that: (1) The ecosystem area was dominated by degradation, and the landscape pattern became increasingly fragmented, with the exception of farmland and wetland areas. (2) However, the quality of the natural ecosystem assets was significantly improved, and the overall situation of the natural ecosystem assets was optimized. (3) In addition to the population urbanization rate, the growth in the population density, land urbanization rate, and GDP per unit area had a significant negative impact on the overall situation of natural ecosystem assets. This reminds people that the improvement in asset quality can compensate for the reduction in area to some extent, and, in addition to the population urbanization rate, the levels of population density, land urbanization, and economic density should be appropriately controlled.
... To conclude, the concept of sustainability is widely acknowledged and embedded in frameworks within the natural capital context, and there is a clear onus on ensuring stocks are maintained above potential tipping point levels. This recognition was not easily won, however, and the natural capital approach saw many of the same theoretical challenges that are currently faced by the CHC (Bateman & Mace, 2020). The ecosystem services sector has also established the idea of 'rules': red lines beyond which habitat or biodiversity loss will be a clear negative, in the absence of the use of natural capital accounting frameworks. ...
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Technical Report
The Scoping Culture and Heritage Capital study was commissioned jointly in November 2021 by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The study was led by Dr Patrycja Kaszynska, Senior Research Fellow at UAL , in partnership with cultural sector partners and policy makers, and collaborating with a team of researchers spanning arts and humanities, heritage science and economics: Dr Sadie Watson and Dr Emma Dwyer from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA); Prof Diane Coyle, University of Cambridge; Prof Patrizia Riganti and Dr Yang Wang University of Glasgow, Dr Ricky Lawton, Simetrica-Jacobs and Dr Mafalda Dâmaso (UAL). The findings of the scoping study are that the introduction of the CHC framework presents significant opportunities from the point of view of valuing the arts, culture and heritage, as well as policy decision-making as such. However, the scoping exercise shows that developing, operationalising and implementing this framework requires sustained research attention, methods refinement and, crucially, capacity- and capability-building across disciplines and sectors. This is not least because the value of arts, culture and heritage as conceived through the CHC framework is an inter- and trans-disciplinary concept. The scoping study is accompanied by a AHRC/DCMS funding call for new research informed by the project’s recommendations. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/scoping-culture-and-heritage-capital-report
Article
The economics of biodiversity is gaining traction and with it the economic valuation of ecosystem services (ESS). Most current developments neglect microbial diversity, although microbial communities provide ecosystem services of great importance. Here we argue that microbial biodiversity (hereafter microbiodiversity) translates into considerable economic value which is usually not explicitly included in quantitative valuation of ecological functions to date. This omission may result in inaccurate values, potentially entailing substantial economic losses, both in private and in public decision-making, due to external effects that arise as microbiodiversity is horizontally and vertically transferred between hosts and natural environments. Microbiodiversity, an important part of biodiversity in general, occupies an irreplaceable position as a natural resource in ecosystems, because of option values derived from the evolutionary potential of microbes, especially if host-associated, and also because of their additional insurance value within changing environments. We illustrate our arguments with specific examples (microbiomes associated with humans, soil, and corals), all of which are jeopardized through anthropogenic pressure. We conclude that the consideration of microbiodiversity in economic valuation will help to find essential assets and guide decision-makers to conserve and protect the economic value of highly diverse microbial communities for future generations.
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Article
Natural capital accounting will confirm what we know — without change, we are headed for environmental disaster resulting from economic growth. We propose a natural capital bank, a new institution to help maintain natural capital adequacy and chart a course to a sustainable future via accounting. Link to article: https://rdcu.be/cnZPK
Article
A meta-analysis is substantial for integrating the findings of all related studies into one consistent research to establish a knowledge bank of a common issue. Although several studies have examined the impact of the individual aspect of human capital on farmers' technical efficiency, the composite impact was not synthesized. Therefore, our analysis examines the key determinants driving systematic variations in technical efficiency estimates from 268 food-crop farming studies published recently in peer-reviewed journals. Our results have supported our hypothesis that human capital increases farming efficiency. The studies' location indicates the importance of farmer beliefs, trust in their institutions and land accumulation to increase food-crop farmer technical efficiency. Our findings contribute to the applied agricultural economics literature by theoretically systematizing literature on human capital in accordance with social and natural capitals in agricultural productivity and empirically validating the technical efficiency in food-crop farming studies toward developing agricultural sustainability in harmony with our biosphere.
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Preprint
The stock market is a bellwether of socio-economic changes that may directly affect individual well-being. Using large-scale UK-biobank data generated over 14 years, we applied specification curve analysis to rigorously identify significant associations between the local stock market index (FTSE100) and 479,791 UK residents’ mood, as well as their alcohol intake and blood pressure adjusting the results for a large number of potential confounders, including age, sex, linear and non-linear effects of time, research site, other stock market indexes. Furthermore, we found similar associations between FTSE100 and volumetric measures of affective brain regions in a subsample (n = 39,755; measurements performed over 5.5 years), which were particularly strong around phase transitions characterized by maximum volatility in the market. The main findings did not depend on applied effect-size estimation criteria (linear methods or mutual information criterion) and were replicated in two independent US-based studies (Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative; n = 424; performed over 2,5 years and MyConnectome; n = 1; 81 measurements over 1,5 years). Our results suggest that phase transitions in the society, indexed by stock market, exhibit close relationships with human mood, health and the affective brain from an individual to population level.
Article
Despite a substantial increase in scientific, public and political interest in pollinator health and many practical conservation efforts, incorporating initiatives across a range of scales and sectors, pollinator health continues to decline. We review existing pollinator conservation initiatives and define their common structural elements. We argue that implementing effective action for pollinators requires further scientific understanding in six key areas: (i) status and trends of pollinator populations; (ii) direct and indirect drivers of decline, including their interactions; (iii) risks and co-benefits of pollinator conservation actions for ecosystems; (iv) benefits of pollinator conservation for society; (v) the effectiveness of context-specific, tailored, actionable solutions; and (vi) integrated frameworks that explicitly link benefits and values with actions to reverse declines. We propose use of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) conceptual framework to link issues and identify critical gaps in both understanding and action for pollinators. This approach reveals the centrality of addressing the recognized indirect drivers of decline, such as patterns of global trade and demography, which are frequently overlooked in current pollinator conservation efforts. Finally, we discuss how existing and new approaches in research can support efforts to move beyond these shortcomings in pollinator conservation initiatives. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Natural processes influencing pollinator health: from chemistry to landscapes’.
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Article
Land use and land cover change is an important driving force for changes in ecosystem services. We defined several important human-induced land cover change processes such as Ecological Restoration Project, Cropland Expansion, Land Degradation, and Urbanization by the land use/land cover transition matrix method. We studied human-induced land cover changes in the Yellow River Basin from 1980 to 2015 and evaluated its impact on ecosystem service values by the benefit transfer method and elasticity coefficient. The results show that the cumulative area of human-induced land cover change reaches 65.71 million ha from 1980 to 2015, which is close to the total area of the Yellow River Basin. Before 2000, Ecological Restoration Project was the most important human-induced land cover change process. However, due to the large amount of cropland expansion and land degradation, the area of natural vegetation was reduced and the ecosystem value declined. Since 2000, due to the implementation of the “Grain for Green” program, the natural vegetation of upstream area and midstream area of Yellow River Basin has been significantly improved. This implies that under an appropriate policy framework, a small amount of human-induced land cover change can also improve ecosystem services significantly.
Article
In this conceptual paper, we examine current theories of natural capital approach implementation and identify areas where further research is needed to help humanity live within planetary boundaries. Natural capital and ecosystem service approaches offer an advanced understanding of Earth's life‐support systems and their interaction with human well‐being at multiple scales, particularly organizations. The insights they offer are present in conservation and accounting literature but are not yet reflected in corporate environmental sustainability literature, a gap this paper seeks to bridge. Without considering scale, it is difficult to understand how micro (individual) and meso (organizational or national) actions contribute to global goals (planetary boundaries). We suggest a multi‐level natural capital implementation framework for corporate environmental sustainability and explain how it can advance natural capital implementation by including scoping and monitoring phases and increasing awareness of natural resource dependencies and how it advances multi‐level environmental management theory.
Article
Ecosystem service (ES) and natural capital (NC) concepts have been promoted as influential tools for environmental management within national public policy. To achieve this potential, these concepts must transition across the science-policy interface and become integrated within governance systems. This study examines 25-years of ES and NC concepts within national public policy at two levels: explicit use of terminology, and implicit description of services. Using the case-study of Ireland as a country with significant bio-based industry and dependence on its NC, we ask when, where, and what conceptual integration has occurred within the national policy landscape. Data were collected using mixed-methods content analysis applied to 50 Irish policy and reporting documents spanning 1996-2020. Results showed i) conceptual integration began in 2008; ii) explicit use of ES was more common than NC (442 compared to 92 uses); iii) explicit use disproportionately occurred within biodiversity policy and environmental reports; iv) use of explicit terminology contained interdisciplinary themes; v) implicit descriptions of ESs differed between policy types; vi) cultural service descriptions were identified throughout the sample whereas regulating services were more visible in more recent documents. Overall conceptual integration was found to be present but fragmented, which may create a barrier to achieving a policy landscape that is responsive to emerging ES science. Conceptual integration is dependent on the broader environmental and governance context and further research is required to understand how this impacts downstream implementation and operation. We conclude by commenting on the implications for future conceptual integration and environmental policy development.
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Article
Degradation of agricultural and forest lands is a global problem causing climate change, loss of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and environmental hazards. In the red and lateritic soils of the northeast, central and southern India, land degradation remains a major problem affecting the lives of millions of people. Agroforestry systems with appropriate combinations of arable crops, horticultural trees, and forest tree species are suggested as effective strategies to combat land degradation by restoring biodiversity and ecosystem services but the scientific evidence is lacking for red and lateritic soils of northeast India. In response, a forest deciduous tree species Gmelina [Gmelina arborea Roxb.], a fruit tree mango [Mangifera indica L.], and a legume crop pigeon pea [Cajanus cajan (L.) Millsp.] were grown solely or in various combinations for ten years (July 2009 to June 2019) in the red and lateritic soil of West Bengal, India to evaluate their role in the restoration of degraded land and the potential for offering multiple ecosystems services. Eleven indicators were selected for evaluating the multifunctionality of ecosystem services having synergies between them. Results after ten years of field experiments revealed that the Gmelina-mango-pigeon pea agroforestry system has provided multiple ecosystem goods like edible seeds (pigeon pea), fruits (mango), fuelwood and timber (mango/Gmelina) sequentially, and was 2–3 times more profitable in terms of net present value compared to sole Gmelina or mango or pigeon pea. This system also offered greater climate resiliency with 1–2 times higher annual biomass production, thus offsetting greenhouse gases emission. The composite evaluation index demonstrated that this system offers the highest level of multifunctionality of multiple ecosystem services. Evidence from this long-term experimentation suggests that the crop-fruit tree-forest tree-based agroforestry system has the potential to restore the land productivity of the degraded red and lateritic soils and provide multiple ecosystem services to millions of people dependent on such land. This system could potentially be out-scaled in many other similar agroecological zones of the world.
Article
Eco-efficiency has been considered a valuable gauge for evaluating how efficient economic activities are in regard to resource inputs and eco-environmental pressures. Even though Ecosystem services (ESs) are inseparable from sustainable eco-environment, a paucity of literature has considered ESs in eco-efficiency research lines. Therefore, this study aims to construct a novel eco-efficiency evaluation framework by integrating ESs as natural capital input and measure it utilizing the Epsilon-based measure model for the county-level cities in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei urban agglomeration (BTHUA) during the period 2005–2015. The spatial econometric technique is further performed to acquire quantitative evidence about whether ESs and other determinants impact eco-efficiency. The results revealed that eco-efficiency increased continuously in the whole BTHUA and BTHUA's optimized development functional areas, whereas eco-efficiency of BTHUA's sub-regions showed a significant temporal diversity. The average eco-efficiency values of cities in key development functional areas and restricted development functional areas showed the V-shaped trend (declining before 2010 and then rising). Interestingly, this study found that ESV economic loss may result in eco-efficiency decline for cities located in key development functional areas. From the spatial heterogeneity perspective, the city with high EE is mainly located in eastern BTHUA, whereas cities in the northern plateau areas, southwestern, and western BTHUA have relatively low EE. Furthermore, there existed a significant spatial autocorrelation and a spatial agglomeration heterogeneity, which suggests that the low-low correlation regions gradually being the most dominant spatial pattern. The results of spatial econometric model verified that water yield has the strongest positive effect on EE while soil erosion will lead to declining EE. This paper potentially provides new insights for future policy design of urban agglomeration sustainable deployment.
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During the past 30 years, Human Development Index (HDI) has evolved into a widely accepted proxy of human development. Based on Strong Sustainability and Planetary Boundaries, this paper puts forward Planetary Boundaries–adjusted HDI (PB-HDI). The PB-HDI has made references to Planetary pressures–adjusted HDI proposed by the UNDP. Being simple, transparent and theoretically valid, the PB-HDI incorporates “relative” ecological impacts, i.e. ecological impacts beyond planetary boundaries, into human development evaluation. The PB-HDI is the product of adjusted HDI and Ecological Overshoot Index. The adjusted HDI employs Healthy Life Expectancy at Birth to measure medical and health levels and sets a threshold value of Gross National Income per capita; the Ecological Overshoot Index measures “relative” ecological impacts and is constructed by employing consumption-based CO2 emissions and Material Footprint. Being compatible with intragenerational and intergenerational equity, the PB-HDI advocates achieving higher levels of economic-social development within planetary boundaries. PB-HDI values and ranks of 142 countries in 2015 are different with those of the HDI by a large extent. For the PB-HDI, Costa Rica, Panama, Hungary, Sri Lanka and Argentina perform best and Singapore, Australia, the United States, India and China do not perform well. The paper provides a more scientific and reasonable perspective and index for human development evaluation in the full world and Anthropocene.
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Natural Capital Accounts extend traditional balance sheets to include valuation of non-market environmental benefits and asset values. They aim to bring the often-overlooked value of nature into decision-making, thus providing an effective decision-support tool. We compare Natural Capital Accounts to UK decision-support guidance, which leads us to three innovations that we apply to a case study of the National Nature Reserves in England. First, we use a reporting format, which explicitly reports gaps in quantification and valuation. Second, we provide ‘traffic-light’, confidence level information for our value results. Third, we report on the ecological state of assets and incorporate this evidence into the headline results. These innovations address common weaknesses whereby partial monetary values may mislead decision-makers and confidence levels are highly variable, yet often ignored. Information on the ecological state of assets is often only partial, non-systematic and not presented with the summary results. Producing this account required ecological and economic evidence to be treated as equally important. These three innovations produce an account that is transparent and provides a useful snapshot of the condition of natural capital assets.
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Natural capital accounting is increasingly promoted in the public and private sectors as a vehicle for providing information to manage the environment and the risks to the economy from environmental degradation. However, both natural capital and natural capital accounting are generally poorly understood and in practice often go unused. This paper outlines the key concepts of natural capital and natural capital accounting and the frameworks that are in use in the public and private sectors. There are many reasons to use natural capital accounting including that: it is useful for management; is wanted by investors; is increasingly expected by consumers, and; may be mandated by law. A proliferation of accounting and reporting frameworks is causing confusion and the accounting profession and regulators need to respond and work with environmental scientists, economists and others in the public and private sectors to standardise and institutionalise natural capital accounting as fast as possible. The Australian Accounting Standards Board Invitation to Comment 48 on Extended External Reporting recognises the need for such a standard, and setting a standard for Australia will help ensure that there is a greater understanding and confidence in the accounting by consumers, managers and investors. Without such confidence, natural capital accounting will not be able to realise the hopes of public and private sectors for the better management of natural capital and avoid the worst of the consequences of climate change and biodiversity loss and the risk these pose to the economy.
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An overview of groundwater economics is presented, highlighting the factors contributing to serious resource undervaluation, which is an aspect of resource management that needs urgent attention. This includes approaches to improving resource valuation, the application of economic instruments to groundwater management and resource capital accounting for assessing sustainability.
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Climate change is expected to impact agricultural land use. Steadily accumulating changes in temperature and water availability can alter the relative profitability of different farming activities and promote land-use changes. There is also potential for high-impact ‘climate tipping points’, where abrupt, nonlinear change in climate occurs, such as the potential collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). Here, using data from Great Britain, we develop a methodology to analyse the impacts of a climate tipping point on land use and economic outcomes for agriculture. We show that economic and land-use impacts of such a tipping point are likely to include widespread cessation of arable farming with losses of agricultural output that are an order of magnitude larger than the impacts of climate change without an AMOC collapse. The agricultural effects of AMOC collapse could be ameliorated by technological adaptations such as widespread irrigation, but the amount of water required and the costs appear to be prohibitive in this instance. Collapse of the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) will impact agricultural land use and its economic value in Great Britain. Ritchie et al. model the impacts of smooth (conventional climate change) and abrupt (tipping point change) AMOC collapse on land use, arable farming and related economic outputs in Britain, as well as the economic feasibility of technological adaptations such as widespread irrigation.
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Research and interest into natural capital, i.e., the stock of the world's natural resources, is increasing as it links humans with nature within a social-ecological system, contributing to ecosystem sustainability. We collected publication data for 300 natural capital papers to explore academic networks and research trends. We used Twitter to collect 14,193 tweets about natural capital over nine months. Analyzing publication data shows three main research clusters, but few coauthorships between the clusters. The results show substantial international coauthorships, and the dominance of American and British academics as coauthors. Analyzing Twitter data, we identified a small community of key users that tweet about natural capital frequently. We found that a range of words is used in tweets about natural capital and the overall sentiment of tweets is positive. For both types of data, "ecosystem services" and "biodiversity" are keywords associated with natural capital. Our results have identified key communities of natural capital researchers, but highlight a potential disconnect between research clusters that needs to be addressed. Current communities surrounding natural capital in academia and on Twitter are relatively exclusive and small.
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There is growing concern over tipping points arising in ecosystems because of the crossing of environmental thresholds. Tipping points lead to abrupt and possibly irreversible shifts between alternative ecosystem states, potentially incurring high societal costs. Trait variation in populations is central to the biotic feedbacks that maintain alternative ecosystem states, as they govern the responses of populations to environmental change that could stabilize or destabilize ecosystem states. However, we know little about how evolutionary changes in trait distributions over time affect the occurrence of tipping points and even less about how big-scale ecological shifts reciprocally interact with trait dynamics. We argue that interactions between ecological and evolutionary processes should be taken into account in order to understand the balance of feedbacks governing tipping points in nature.
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Approximately 25 years ago, ecologists became increasingly interested in the question of whether ongoing biodiversity loss matters for the functioning of ecosystems. As such, a new ecological subfield on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning (BEF) was born. This subfield was initially dominated by theoretical studies and by experiments in which biodiversity was manipulated, and responses of ecosystem functions such as biomass production, decomposition rates, carbon sequestration, trophic interactions and pollination were assessed. More recently, an increasing number of studies have investigated BEF relationships in non‐manipulated ecosystems, but reviews synthesizing our knowledge on the importance of real‐world biodiversity are still largely missing. I performed a systematic review in order to assess how biodiversity drives ecosystem functioning in both terrestrial and aquatic, naturally assembled communities, and on how important biodiversity is compared to other factors, including other aspects of community composition and abiotic conditions. The outcomes of 258 published studies, which reported 726 BEF relationships, revealed that in many cases, biodiversity promotes average biomass production and its temporal stability, and pollination success. For decomposition rates and ecosystem multifunctionality, positive effects of biodiversity outnumbered negative effects, but neutral relationships were even more common. Similarly, negative effects of prey biodiversity on pathogen and herbivore damage outnumbered positive effects, but were less common than neutral relationships. Finally, there was no evidence that biodiversity is related to soil carbon storage. Most BEF studies focused on the effects of taxonomic diversity, however, metrics of functional diversity were generally stronger predictors of ecosystem functioning. Furthermore, in most studies, abiotic factors and functional composition (e.g. the presence of a certain functional group) were stronger drivers of ecosystem functioning than biodiversity per se. While experiments suggest that positive biodiversity effects become stronger at larger spatial scales, in naturally assembled communities this idea is too poorly studied to draw general conclusions. In summary, a high biodiversity in naturally assembled communities positively drives various ecosystem functions. At the same time, the strength and direction of these effects vary highly among studies, and factors other than biodiversity can be even more important in driving ecosystem functioning. Thus, to promote those ecosystem functions that underpin human well‐being, conservation should not only promote biodiversity per se, but also the abiotic conditions favouring species with suitable trait combinations.
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Technical Report
These guidelines have been produced to support the development of ecosystem service indicators at the national and regional level for uses in reporting, assessments, policy making, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem management, environmental management, development planning and education. The guidance contains four key sections: 1. Introduction to ecosystem service indicators 2. Steps in developing ecosystem service indicators 3. Mainstreaming ecosystem service indicators 4. Ecosystem indicators developed and piloted in South Africa
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Recent years have seen a surge of interest in ecosystem multifunctionality, a concept that has developed in the largely separate fields of biodiversity–ecosystem function and land management research. Here we discuss the merit of the multifunctionality concept, the advances it has delivered, the challenges it faces and solutions to these challenges. This involves the redefinition of multifunctionality as a property that exists at two levels: ecosystem function multifunctionality and ecosystem service multifunctionality. The framework presented provides a road map for the development of multifunctionality measures that are robust, quantifiable and relevant to both fundamental ecological science and ecosystem management.
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A rights-based approach to the environmental issues has been gaining momentum since the United Nations’ Environmental Agency proposed a new rights-based agenda for sustainable development in the document, Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (UN, 2015). Our moral responsibility toward the environment is essential to the project of sustainable development. The Kantian ethical tradition lays the foundations of a rights-based approach to human rights and sustainable development. Human rights are essential to the flourishing of all human beings regardless of their nationality or another status. Linking human rights to environmental justice has been an arduous task, but contemporary environmental ethicists argue that giving a human face to the environment that nurtures and sustains us is a precondition for sustainable development. The concept of sustainability addresses the issue of economic growth at present and how this impacts the future generations. This paper examines the rights-based environmental ethics, which has emerged in the context of a human rights-based approach to human development and forges a link between rights-based ethics and sustainable development that could establish a solid foundation for environmental justice.
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The connected nature of social-ecological systems has never been more apparent than in today's globalized world. The ecosystem service framework and associated ecosystem assessments aim to better inform the science-policy response to sustainability challenges. Such assessments, however, often overlook distant, diffuse and delayed impacts that are critical for global sustainability. Ecosystem-services science must better recognise the off-stage impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services of place-based ecosystem management, which we term 'ecosystem service burdens'. These are particularly important since they are often negative, and have a potentially significant effect on ecosystem management decisions. Ecosystem-services research can better recognise these off-stage burdens through integration with other analytical approaches, such as life cycle analysis and risk-based approaches that better account for the uncertainties involved. We argue that off-stage ecosystem service burdens should be incorporated in ecosystem assessments such as those led by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Taking better account of these off-stage burdens is essential to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of cross-scale interactions, a pre-requisite for any sustainability transition.
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Significance Ecosystems store vast quantities of wealth, but difficulties measuring wealth held in ecosystems prevent its inclusion in accounting systems. Ecosystem-based management endeavors to manage ecosystems holistically. However, ecosystem-based management lacks headline indicators to evaluate performance. We unify the inclusive wealth and ecosystem-based management paradigms, allowing apples-to-apples comparisons between the wealth of the ecosystem and other forms of wealth, while providing a headline performance index for evaluating the performance of ecosystem-based management. We project that the Baltic Sea fishery ecosystem yields increasing stores of wealth over the next 50 y under the ecosystem-based management-inspired multispecies maximum sustainable yield management beginning in 2017, whereas the previous single-species management generally results in declining wealth.
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The connected nature of social-ecological systems has never been more apparent than in today’s globalized world. The ecosystem service framework and associated ecosystem assessments aim to better inform the science–policy response to sustainability challenges. Such assessments, however, often overlook distant, diffuse and delayed impacts that are critical for global sustainability. Ecosystem-services science must better recognise the off-stage impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services of place-based ecosystem management, which we term ‘ecosystem service burdens’. These are particularly important since they are often negative, and have a potentially significant effect on ecosystem management decisions. Ecosystem-services research can better recognise these off-stage burdens through integration with other analytical approaches, such as life cycle analysis and risk-based approaches that better account for the uncertainties involved. We argue that off-stage ecosystem service burdens should be incorporated in ecosystem assessments such as those led by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Taking better account of these off-stage burdens is essential to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of cross-scale interactions, a pre-requisite for any sustainability transition.
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Ecosystems are self-regulating systems that provide societies with food, water, timber, and other resources. As demands for resources increase, management decisions are replacing self-regulating properties. Counter to previous technical approaches that applied simple formulas to estimate sustainable yields of single species, current research recognizes the inherent complexity of ecosystems and the inability to foresee all consequences of interventions across different spatial, temporal, and administrative scales. Ecosystem management is thus more realistically seen as a “wicked problem” that has no clear-cut solution. Approaches for addressing such problems include multisector decision-making, institutions that enable management to span across administrative boundaries, adaptive management, markets that incorporate natural capital, and collaborative processes to engage diverse stakeholders and address inequalities. Ecosystem management must avoid two traps: falsely assuming a tame solution and inaction from overwhelming complexity. An incremental approach can help to avoid these traps.
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This paper examines the pivotal role played by property markets in determining the magnitude and distribution of welfare changes resulting from localised environmental change. We address that issue using an equilibrium sorting model (ESM) calibrated, by way of example, to the circumstances of a road infrastructure project in the English town of Polegate. Previous ESM research has tended to assume that all households rent property from a fixed property stock. The narrative that arises from those models concerns environmental gentrification, wherein access to environmentally improved locations is appropriated by the relatively wealthy through their ability to out-compete the less wealthy in the rental property market. Our research shows that to be only part of a much more complex story. We develop a model that extends the sophistication with which ESMs replicate property market dynamics, allowing for households to choose whether to rent or purchase their home and introducing greater realism into housing supply responses to changing market conditions. Our research shows that property markets redistribute welfare gains across the population in complex ways in which tenure choice and housing supply constraints play central roles.
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In this paper, we reflect on the implications for science, policy and practice of the recently introduced concept of Nature-Based Solutions (NBS), with a focus on the European context. First, we analyse NBS in relation to similar concepts, and reflect on its relationship to sustainability as an overarching framework. From this, we derive a set of questions to be addressed and propose a general framework for how these might be addressed in NBS projects by funders, researchers, policy-makers and practitioners. We conclude that:
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The fossil fuel-driven transport sector has been one of the major contributors to CO2 emission across the world keeping it on the energy policy agenda for the past three decades. Canada ranks second in gasoline consumption among OECD countries and Canadian gasoline expenditure share has been increasing since the 1990s. Fuel efficiency policies aim to decrease gasoline consumption; however, the effect can be mitigated by changes in consumer behavior such as traveling more distances — a rebound effect. Thus, the effectiveness of fuel efficiency policy is dependent on the magnitude of the rebound effect. In this paper, we estimate the rebound effect for personal transportation in Canada using data from the household spending survey for the period 1997–2009. The model includes a system of expenditure share equations for gasoline, other energy goods, and non-energy goods specified by AIDS and QUAIDS models and estimated by the nonlinear SUR method. Our estimation results show a rather high average rebound effect of 82–88% but with significant heterogeneity across income groups, provinces, and gasoline prices. Specifically, the rebound effect ranges from 63 to 96% across income groups and provinces and increases with gasoline prices.
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National ecosystem assessments form an essential knowledge base for safeguarding biodiversity and ecosystem services. We analyze eight European (sub-)national ecosystem assessments () and compare their objectives, political context, methods, and operationalization. We observed remarkable differences in breadth of the assessment, methods employed, variety of services considered, policy mandates, and funding mechanisms. Biodiversity and ecosystem services are mainly assessed independently, with biodiversity conceptualized as underpinning services, as a source of conflict with services, or as a service in itself. Recommendations derived from our analysis for future ecosystem assessments include the needs to improve the common evidence base, to advance the mapping of services, to consider international flows of services, and to connect more strongly to policy questions. Although the context specificity of national ecosystem assessments is acknowledged as important, a greater harmonization across assessments could help to better inform common European policies and future pan-regional assessments.
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Valuing natural capital is fundamental to measuring sustainability. The United Nations Environment Programme, World Bank, and other agencies have called for inclusion of the value of natural capital in sustainability metrics, such as inclusive wealth. Much has been written about the importance of natural capital, but consistent, rigorous valuation approaches compatible with the pricing of traditional forms of capital have remained elusive. We present a guiding quantitative framework enabling natural capital valuation that is fully consistent with capital theory, accounts for biophysical and economic feedbacks, and can guide interdisciplinary efforts to measure sustainability. We illustrate this framework with an application to groundwater in the Kansas High Plains Aquifer, a rapidly depleting asset supporting significant food production. We develop a 10-y time series (1996−2005) of natural capital asset prices that accounts for technological, institutional, and physical changes. Kansas lost approximately $110 million per year (2005 US dollars) of capital value through groundwater withdrawal and changes in aquifer management during the decade spanning 1996–2005. This annual loss in wealth is approximately equal to the state’s 2005 budget surplus, and is substantially more than investments in schools over this period. Furthermore, real investment in agricultural capital also declined over this period. Although Kansas’ depletion of water wealth is substantial, it may be tractably managed through careful groundwater management and compensating investments in other natural and traditional assets. Measurement of natural capital value is required to inform management and ongoing investments in natural assets. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2016/02/04/1513779113.abstract
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Greenhouse gas emissions from global agriculture are increasing at around 1% per annum, yet substantial cuts in emissions are needed across all sectors. The challenge of reducing agricultural emissions is particularly acute, because the reductions achievable by changing farming practices are limited,3 and are hampered by rapidly rising food demand,5. Here we assess the technical mitigation potential off�ered by land sparing—increasing agricultural yields, reducing farmland area and actively restoring natural habitats on the land spared. Restored habitats can sequester carbon and can o�set emissions from agriculture. Using the UK as an example, we estimate net emissions in 2050 under a range of future agricultural scenarios. We find that a land-sparing strategy has the technical potential to achieve significant reductions in net emissions from agriculture and land-use change. Coupling land sparing with demand-side strategies to reduce meat consumption and food waste can further increase the technical mitigation potential—however, economic and implementation considerations might limit the degree to which this technical potential could be realized in practice.
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Assessing the cultural benefits provided by non-market ecosystem services can contribute previously unknown information to supplement conservation decision-making. The concept of sense of place embeds all dimensions of peoples’ perceptions and interpretations of the environment, such as attachment, identity or symbolic meaning, and has the potential to link social and ecological issues. This review contains: (1) an evaluation of the importance of sense of place as an ecosystem service; and (2) comprehensive discussion as to how incorporating sense of place in an evaluation can uncover potential benefits for both biodiversity conservation and human well-being. Sense of place provides physical and psychological benefits to people, and has neglected economic value. The biodiversity-related experiences are essential components of the service that need to be further explored. A conceptual framework was used to explore how the existing knowledge on sense of place derived from other fields can be used to inform conservation decision-making, but further research is needed to fill existing gaps in knowledge. This review contributes to a better understanding of the role biodiversity plays in human well-being, and should inform the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).
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Global change, especially land-use intensification, affects human well-being by impacting the delivery of multiple ecosystem services (multifunctionality). However, whether biodiversity loss is a major component of global change effects on multifunctionality in real-world ecosystems, as in experimental ones, remains unclear. Therefore, we assessed biodiversity, functional composition and 14 ecosystem services on 150 agricultural grasslands differing in land-use intensity. We also introduce five multifunctionality measures in which ecosystem services were weighted according to realistic land-use objectives. We found that indirect land-use effects, i.e. those mediated by biodiversity loss and by changes to functional composition, were as strong as direct effects on average. Their strength varied with land-use objectives and regional context. Biodiversity loss explained indirect effects in a region of intermediate productivity and was most damaging when land-use objectives favoured supporting and cultural services. In contrast, functional composition shifts, towards fast-growing plant species, strongly increased provisioning services in more inherently unproductive grasslands. © 2015 The Authors Ecology Letters published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd and CNRS.
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The central challenge of the 21st century is to develop economic, social, and governance systems capable of ending poverty and achieving sustainable levels of population and consumption while securing the life-support systems underpinning current and future human well-being. Essential to meeting this challenge is the incorporation of natural capital and the ecosystem services it provides into decision-making. We explore progress and crucial gaps at this frontier, reflecting upon the 10 y since the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. We focus on three key dimensions of progress and ongoing challenges: raising awareness of the interdependence of ecosystems and human well-being, advancing the fundamental interdisciplinary science of ecosystem services, and implementing this science in decisions to restore natural capital and use it sustainably. Awareness of human dependence on nature is at an all-time high, the science of ecosystem services is rapidly advancing, and talk of natural capital is now common from governments to corporate boardrooms. However, successful implementation is still in early stages. We explore why ecosystem service information has yet to fundamentally change decision-making and suggest a path forward that emphasizes: (i) developing solid evidence linking decisions to impacts on natural capital and ecosystem services, and then to human well-being; (ii) working closely with leaders in government, business, and civil society to develop the knowledge, tools, and practices necessary to integrate natural capital and ecosystem services into everyday decision-making; and (iii) reforming institutions to change policy and practices to better align private short-term goals with societal long-term goals.
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The importance of biodiversity for the integrated functioning of ecosystems remains unclear because most evidence comes from analyses of biodiversity's effect on individual functions. Here we show that the effects of biodiversity on ecosystem function become more important as more functions are considered. We present the first systematic investigation of biodiversity's effect on ecosystem multifunctionality across multiple taxa, trophic levels and habitats using a comprehensive database of 94 manipulations of species richness. We show that species-rich communities maintained multiple functions at higher levels than depauperate ones. These effects were stronger for herbivore biodiversity than for plant biodiversity, and were remarkably consistent across aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Despite observed tradeoffs, the overall effect of biodiversity on multifunctionality grew stronger as more functions were considered. These results indicate that prior research has underestimated the importance of biodiversity for ecosystem functioning by focusing on individual functions and taxonomic groups.
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Natural capital is essential for goods and services on which people depend. Yet pressures on the environment mean that natural capital assets are continuing to decline and degrade, putting such benefits at risk. Systematic monitoring of natural assets is a major challenge that could be both unaffordable and unmanageable without a way to focus efforts. Here we introduce a simple approach, based on the commonly used management tool of a risk register, to highlight natural assets whose condition places benefits at risk. We undertake a preliminary assessment using a risk register for natural capital assets in the UK based solely on existing information. The status and trends of natural capital assets are assessed using asset–benefit relationships for ten kinds of benefits (food, fibre (timber), energy, aesthetics, freshwater (quality), recreation, clean air, wildlife, hazard protection and equable climate) across eight broad habitat types in the UK based on three dimensions of natural capital within each of the habitat types (quality, quantity and spatial configuration). We estimate the status and trends of benefits relative to societal targets using existing regulatory limits and policy commitments, and allocate scores of high, medium or low risk to asset–benefit relationships that are both subject to management and of concern. The risk register approach reveals substantial gaps in knowledge about asset–benefit relationships which limit the scope and rigour of the assessment (especially for marine and urban habitats). Nevertheless, we find strong indications that certain assets (in freshwater, mountain, moors and heathland habitats) are at high risk in relation to their ability to sustain certain benefits (especially freshwater, wildlife and climate regulation). Synthesis and applications. With directed data gathering, especially to monitor trends, improve metrics related to asset–benefit relationships, and improve understanding of nonlinearities and thresholds, the natural capital risk register could provide a useful tool. If updated regularly, it could direct monitoring efforts, focus research and protect and manage those natural assets where benefits are at highest risk.
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How often do people visit the world's protected areas (PAs)? Despite PAs covering one-eighth of the land and being a major focus of nature-based recreation and tourism, we don't know. To address this, we compiled a globally-representative database of visits to PAs and built region-specific models predicting visit rates from PA size, local population size, remoteness, natural attractiveness, and national income. Applying these models to all but the very smallest of the world's terrestrial PAs suggests that together they receive roughly 8 billion (8 x 109) visits/y-of which more than 80% are in Europe and North America. Linking our region-specific visit estimates to valuation studies indicates that these visits generate approximately US $600 billion/y in direct in-country expenditure and US $250 billion/y in consumer surplus. These figures dwarf current, typically inadequate spending on conserving PAs. Thus, even without considering the many other ecosystem services that PAs provide to people, our findings underscore calls for greatly increased investment in their conservation.
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Significance Many ecosystem services are public goods available to everyone without charge, but the provision of these services often depends on the actions of private landowners who may bear cost to provide services. How to design incentives when the provision of services depends on the landscape pattern of conservation and where landowners have private information about costs presents a difficult challenge. Here we apply results from auction theory to design a payments scheme that achieves optimal provision of ecosystem services with spatially dependent benefits and asymmetric information. The auction mechanism works equally well whether property rights reside with the landowners so that the regulator pays landowners to conserve, or with the regulator so that landowners pay the regulator to develop.
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The June 2012 issue of Environment and Development Economics published a symposium with considerable focus on our paper, ‘Sustainability and the measurement of wealth’. The Symposium also contained five articles in which other researchers offered valuable comments on our paper. The present note replies to those comments. It clarifies important issues and reveals how important questions relating to sustainability analysis can be fruitfully addressed within our framework. These include questions about the treatment of time, the use of shadow prices and the treatment of transnational externalities. This note also offers new theoretical results that help substantiate our earlier empirical finding that the value of human health is something very different from the value of the consumption permitted by health and survival.
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Landscapes generate a wide range of valuable ecosystem services, yet land-use decisions often ignore the value of these services. Using the example of the United Kingdom, we show the significance of land-use change not only for agricultural production but also for emissions and sequestration of greenhouse gases, open-access recreational visits, urban green space, and wild-species diversity. We use spatially explicit models in conjunction with valuation methods to estimate comparable economic values for these services, taking account of climate change impacts. We show that, although decisions that focus solely on agriculture reduce overall ecosystem service values, highly significant value increases can be obtained from targeted planning by incorporating all potential services and their values and that this approach also conserves wild-species diversity.