This paper was originally published on Historic England


“Summary: Natural capital and ecosystem services increasingly underpin policy, land management plans, research strategies, and development management decisions. Historic England need to better understand these approaches to facilitate policy responses, partnership working and improve support for those caring for our historic environment. ‘Ecosystem services’ are those services provided to society by the environment. The concept is integral to the idea of ‘natural capital’ – the configuration of environmental resources and ecological processes that contribute to human welfare.

These approaches support the attribution of value – monetary and non-monetary – to those resources and enable accounts of that value to be created. This ‘natural capital accounting’ is used to assess the resources necessary for human and societal wellbeing now and into the future, as well as to understand the impact of changes in management of these resources upon that.

To date the historic environment has been poorly represented in these approaches. ‘Heritage Counts’ goes some way to achieving a similar approach for the historic environment, and could potentially be related to ecosystem services and natural capital, but the challenges are many. Currently, the historic environment is included within ‘cultural services’ (one of the four categories of ecosystem services), but this is primarily concerned with the intangible aspects of heritage (for instance sense of place); the material role that the historic environment plays in shaping the natural world is not considered. If heritage were better included within these approaches this would be beneficial for managing both the historic and natural environment by facilitating: – closer working with existing and potential partners and identifying areas of mutual interest – advocacy of historic environment interests to a wider audience – consideration of the historic environment within government and public bodies.

This paper explores the applications of ecosystem services, the current relationship with the historic environment and possible future steps for both the heritage sector as a whole and Historic England. Drawing on evidence gathered at a Historic England workshop and through a short survey on the topic it makes the following observations and recommendations: – There is an appetite for better inclusion of the historic environment in ecosystem services – Historic England are well placed to advocate for this by:

  • Gathering examples of good practice
  • Issuing a position statement on the relevance of the historic environment to ecosystem services
  • Seeking opportunities for collaborative work…”

Read on and access the full paper at: Historic England.