Defra to Launch Ecosystem Assessment for England

Defra has announced that they will be launching a Millennium Ecosystem Assessment for England. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) was founded in 2001 by an independent collection of over a thousand specialist scientists, to investigate the state of the world’s ecosystems in relation to human well-being, and continually monitor changes to our natural environment. An ecosystems approach is strongly supported by the MA, that is, a valuation of our natural ‘capital’ in social, economic and environmental terms.

The MA is broadly a project of global scope, however Defra propose to develop something along the lines of an inventory and ongoing assessment for England’s natural resources. Defra has pledged to give £500,000 over a two year period to fund the assessment. Hilary Benn made the following statement at his first keynote speech on the environment at the Barnes Wetland Centre:

“This project will give us a clearer picture of our natural resources than ever before. It will show us just how much we benefit from our natural environment. And in turn it will provide a springboard for further action to protect and enhance our natural heritage.”

The Convention on Biological Diversity have devised a means of applying the ecosystems approach, using the following guidelines:

  1. Focus on the relationships and processes within ecosystems: we must strive to accelerate research into the benefits of functional biodiversity, whilst continuing to manage ecosystems in the absence of such knowledge
  2. Enhance benefit-sharing: maintain and restore ecosystem function for human well-being
  3. Use adaptive management practices: there must be flexibility in the type of management implemented; considering social and cultural factors affecting natural resources use, as well as flexibility in policy-making and implementation
  4. Carry out management actions at the scale appropriate for the issue being addressed, with decentralization to lowest level, as appropriate: management should occur at the stakeholder level where appropriate, supported by policy and legislative frameworks
  5. Ensure intersectoral cooperation: the formation of inter-ministerial bodies within government or enhanced networking capability to facilitate better communication at all levels

Further details can be found on the Defra and CBD websites.

To read the Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn’s full speech go to: