Putting data visualisation at the heart of natural capital

Professor Richard Tiffin explains how data visualisation can help non-specialists understand the complex links between natural habitats and the services they provide

A core principle of the UK government’s 25-year environment plan is recognising natural habitats have a value, and that by conserving or managing these assets effectively it is possible to enhance the services this land delivers.

The theory suggests that if it were possible to link good management with an uplift in services, then the steward could be rewarded for providing a public good. 


Valuing natural assets 

Providing a reward for a public good is already happening in Dorset. Wessex Water Authority is concerned about build-up of nutrients in Poole Harbour. As an alternative to investing in a nutrient-stripping plant, at a cost of £6.5m, the authority is working closely with farmers in the water catchment area to tackle the cause of the problem and reduce runoff into the rivers. The farmers are incentivised to grow cover crops that protect the soil and lock in fertility. Everyone benefits, and the reduction in nutrients in the water can be easily measured. 

In this scenario, it is possible to put a financial value on land management that is related to a benefit provided to a clearly defined stakeholder group. However this is rarely the case. ‘Natural environment ...

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