Natural Capital Indicators: for defining and measuring change in natural capital.
All aspects of human well-being depend on the essential services that are provided by a healthy natural environment. These services include food, clean water and air, regulating climate and hazards such as flooding, thriving wildlife, as well as cultural and spiritual enrichment. A safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is necessary for the full enjoyment of a vast range of human rights. This includes the role that a healthy environment plays in sustaining human health. Despite increasing knowledge about the importance of the environment to human well-being, we do not fully understand which properties of the natural environment are vital for the long-term sustainability of these well-being benefits. This report takes a new and systematic approach to identify these vital properties, and which of these can act as effective, early-warning, indicators of change. Natural capital is an economic concept recognizing that nature provides benefits and value to people. It considers natural capital (habitats, species, air, soil, water, oceans, minerals and natural processes) as a stock, from which ecosystem services flow, providing benefits and value. Using a natural capital framework, this project goes back to first principles, to generate indicators through understanding the links between natural capital assets and the ecosystem services they provide. This project aims to be open and easily applied. It does not involve costly or complex modelling and aims to be transparent, useable and accessible to all. It can be applied at a range of scales and used in natural capital assessments, accounts, tools and plans, or to evaluate and monitor interventions. As an example it has already been used to inform condition indicators for the Office for National Statistics development of UK ecosystem accounts. Importantly this study helps to understand what good natural capital assets look like, for the future sustainable provision of multiple ecosystem services, and the well-being benefits they support.