February 2014

Natural England Commissions Eunomia to Develop Ecosystem Services Toolkit

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Eunomia, in partnership with Avon Wildlife Trust Ecological Consultancy, is developing an Excel-based toolkit for Natural England. The aim of the toolkit is to enable practitioners to quickly compare, at a high level, the relative provision of ecosystem services from investments in different types of green infrastructure.

Green infrastructure is defined as:

A network of multi-functional green space, urban and rural, which is capable of delivering a wide range of environmental and quality of life benefits for local communities… it includes features such as street trees, hedges, grassland, woodland, ponds and green roofs.

Such features can provide a variety of benefits to people, known as ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are categorised as:

  • Provisioning services (for example food, fibre and fuel);
  • Regulating services (including storm water regulation, pollution clean-up, carbon sequestration, and local climate control);
  • Cultural services (such as recreational activities and related health benefits, aesthetic values, and sense of place); and
  • Supporting services (e.g. soil formation)

In the first instance the toolkit will incorporate data on woodlands and grassland, with the intention that data on other types of green infrastructure can be incorporated in future. The intended users of the tool are local authority planners, and Natural England’s local staff who frequently respond to planning applications.

Project Manager Dr Chris Sherrington, Senior Consultant at Eunomia, said:

“We are delighted to be working for Natural England in developing this toolkit. Developers and local authorities are increasingly aware that green infrastructure (GI) can provide a range of beneficial ecosystem services. However, financial constraints mean that organisations can find understanding these potential services to be prohibitively costly.

“A lack of understanding of the benefits of GI may mean that local authorities and developers miss out on measures that could deliver services in the most cost-effective way. Decisions taken that may seem cost-effective in the absence of knowledge of the benefits of GI, may lead to unexpected higher costs in the future. Accordingly there is a pressing need for an approach that is able to deliver an affordable approach to understanding the ecosystem services benefits of GI.”