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Using natural capital to recover nature for people and wildlife

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Tricia Rice from Natural England explains a new resource available to help with nature’s recovery and natural capital.

If you are making decisions about the future of places and want these decisions to be beneficial for nature’s recovery and the people living in these areas, then natural capital is for you.

Natural capital refers to the aspects of the natural environment that provide benefits to people. Our natural capital assets (e.g. woodlands, beaches and grasslands) provide ecosystem services (e.g. trees absorb pollutants) and from these our environment can be greatly improved (we get cleaner air, for example).

The recently published Dasgupta Review reminds us that our economy, and our health and wellbeing, are embedded within nature, not external to it. But we’ve been depleting our natural capital at the expense of economic growth, which is not sustainable.

Using natural capital as a lens for understanding and making decisions about the environment can help improve outcomes both for people’s wellbeing and prosperity and for nature’s recovery.

Photograph - Natural England - Chris Gomersall

How can you use natural capital?

If you’re interested in understanding exactly what natural capital is and how it can be used, look no further. Natural England have just published a Natural Capital Evidence Handbook to help you to understand how to apply natural capital in your place, and make sense of different types of natural capital evidence.

The Handbook is based on more than a decade of our experience applying natural capital on the ground. This includes the North Devon Landscape Pioneer, which focused on exploring natural capital and how it could help with decision making. It also includes the Upland Ecosystem Service Pilots to find ways to enhance land management for multiple benefits to people and nature.

Who is the Handbook for?

If you’re also striving towards Natural England’s vision of recovering thriving nature for people and planet, in tandem with building partnerships to do this, then this handbook is definitely for you!

The Handbook has been written for anyone working in a place-based partnership making plans to enhance the benefits that people get from the environment. It will be useful for a wide range of different plans and sectors. For example, it will be helpful to have a look at the Handbook if your place is embarking on a natural capital strategy or considering natural capital investment plans. The Handbook will help you if you want to include natural capital evidence in your places’ Local Nature Recovery Strategy and Nature Recovery Network, or when reviewing a management plan for your Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Park.

What does the Handbook do?

The Handbook brings together all of Natural England’s learning, tools and resources to help you use natural capital in strategic decision making in partnership with others. It will help you with:

• ensuring benefits for people are built in at the very start – whether these are nature’s services like climate and flood regulation or the individual feelings of wellbeing we get from spending time in the natural environment.
• involving and asking the right people so that the resulting plan for actions have more buy-in and impact.
• considering what good looks like for the ecosystems in your place, and how this links to benefits that should flow to people.
• finding evidence for the distribution and state of natural capital in your place and how this is different to a habitat map.
• distinguishing between a natural capital account, cost benefit analysis and investment cases and understanding when these might be needed.

You don’t have to follow the Handbook through from start to finish, but it will help you work out what’s appropriate for your place. If you’re part of a process which has already begun, you can use it to think about where to bring in natural capital and how best to do it.

What can you do next?

You can download the Natural Capital Evidence Handbook from Natural England’s Access to Evidence Catalogue. To find out more about the Handbook and how you can use it join our webinar on 24th of June hosted by The Ecosystem Knowledge Network at 1-2pm.

If it prompts questions about how it relates to your work area or if you want more information then please get in touch with either Tricia Rice ( or Alice Lord (

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