NORTH WEST 2045 NATURAL CAPITAL
What does the land do for us?
1ST NW2045 Natural Capital Baseline Assessment published.
We are proud to be sharing the first Natural Capital Baseline Assessment of the NorthWest2045 area, which was undertaken as part of the Regional Land Use Partnership work (RLUP).
The ‘NCA’ was conducted over the summer – autumn of 2022. The RLUP team worked with SLR Consulting, who used publicly available data sources and computer modelling with collaboration and contributions from our many partners and contacts across this huge area. (Read more about the background to the process here.)
© E. Mclachlan © R. Skene
The research exercise was relatively constrained: we were able to assess two of the ‘ecosystem services’ that are provided by our ‘natural capital’ here; biodiversity on land and carbon storage. We also looked at food production and nature-based tourism in a smaller pilot area (Melness, Tongue and Skerray Community Council area).
The assessment produced interesting findings about the distribution of biodiversity and stored carbon within the NW2045 area, and helps indicate where more work is needed to enable a ‘natural capital approach’ as a central principle of decision making around land futures. It also, significantly, highlighted the challenges around availability of data, and of communicating about natural capital – as we encountered during the public meeting held during the process, and have worked to improve on in the intervening months.
Importantly, the process of undertaking the assessment provided an opportunity for the NW2045 RLUP team to connect with many individuals, organisations and groups across the area – public, private and third sector. The process has also built capacity within the local team and the NW2045 partnership to understand the swiftly developing world of Natural Capital.
Being a time-limited exercise, it was a starting point, rather than comprehensive. There are many ecosystem services which we know are also important in this area, and we still need to look at, including marine and coastal habitats, and natural carbon capture (as opposed to carbon storage). The cultural value of nature – we know to be hugely significant – can only be assessed with in-depth involvement of those here; something we are beginning to work on through our Land+ work.
© SLR Consulting © NW2045
The process was a crucial and foundational step on our ‘Natural Capital journey’, and the RLUP team is continuing to work on this issue, which is rapidly becoming a fundamental influence on land use decisions. We are contributing to the development of NatureScot’s Landscape Scale Natural Capital tool, whilst also working with two leading Natural Capital experts – Mark Reed of SRUC and Eleanor Harris of Galbraiths.
Mark and Eleanor are helping us to consider innovative methods for harnessing the transformative potential of Natural Capital for both communities and land here... methods which will, of course, be developed in collaboration with communities and landowners. We are applying to the NatureScot / National Lottery Heritage Fund Facility for Investment -Ready Nature in Scotland to be proactive in exploring the change this might bring, in line with the NW2045 Vision.
The Natural Capital Baseline Assessment is available as a full report with in-depth context, methodologies and results. Our ‘Storymap’ – What does the land do for you? - is a summary of the process and the findings.
© Due North Studio © NW2045
If you have any questions about the NCA process, our developing work on Natural Capital, or any other aspects of the work, please do get in touch.
The work was commissioned on behalf of the NorthWest2045 and Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership, with support from Scottish Wildlife Trust - National Lottery Heritage Fund; The Highland Council, NatureScot and Assynt Development Trust.