Dr Abigail Barker, chief operating officer at Natural Capital Research, considers the role of natural capital when it comes to environmental trends, including flood risk, and how they’re planning to track this.
As the UK embraces the biodiversity measures set out by the draft Environment Bill, attention is increasingly being focused on the contribution of natural capital to long term environmental trends and how to track them over time. Landowners and land managers, as well as landscape and development professionals, need to be aware of this requirement and must consider that effects may not be site-specific, but can lead to a cascade of knock-on effects in neighbouring areas.
Longer-term effects of new developments on natural capital cover a range of instances such as water table depletion, low flows in rivers, diffuse pollution of air and water, and loss of flood-plain capacity. Each of these has wider implications for nature conservation efforts, both in designated sites and in the neighbouring countryside: breeding birds, freshwater fish and great crested newts are just some of the most affected species.
Accurate flood risk mapping is proving increasingly critical in the UK as significant flooding events damage homes and land each year. Scientists warn that these incidents are only likely to get more frequent with reports showing that the UK is set to see about a 10% increase in annual average rainfall by 2100 compared to the period 1985-2005. A key challenge is understanding how the management of natural assets can help reduce these risks while addressing challenges such as scarce water resources and protected species.
A robust, up-to-date and comprehensive evidence base is key to helping developers accurately identify which natural assets need to be maintained because of their role in reducing flood risk and soil erosion, for example, and which assets they should enhance to provide additional natural flood management. To respond to this need for accurate mapping of natural assets and associated ecosystem services, Natural Capital Research have developed NatCap Map, an online, simple to use tool to help analyse the effects of developments on ecosystem service flows including biodiversity, soil erosion prevention, and flood risk reduction over time.
To find out more visit: www.natcapresearch.com
 IPCC 5th Assessment Report Sumary for Policymakers (p20)