This article was originally published on Scottish Forum on Natural Capital.


“…Crown Estate Scotland tenant farmers have taken part in a pioneering project to assess the value of natural assets in helping them to make decisions that will protect the environment and the land that they work on. The project applied the international Natural Capital Protocol on the 23,000 hectare Glenlivet Estate (with its range of farming, forestry and leisure activities), an upland tenant farm on the same estate, and a lowland arable business on the Fochabers Estate.

The trial looked to explore the degree to which the Natural Capital Protocol is applicable and useful to land based businesses in Scotland. This was undertaken in partnership with Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Land & Estates, the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital, the James Hutton Institute and SRUC.

The project, undertaken by Cumulus Consultants, involved desk-based analysis, interviews and data gathering with the land based businesses, using publicly available data sets and locally held information. As well as looking at the businesses as a whole, the work also applied the Protocol to a specific case study within each business boundary. These were around improving soil, woodland planting/wetland restoration and peatland restoration.

The trial established that the Protocol can be applied to land based businesses, however several lessons emerged during the assessment. The availability and reliability of necessary data, gauging which impacts to assess, and integrating the generic assessments into the business overview were areas that proved challenging. It was found that at an estate level, although the Protocol could be applied, it was more challenging than applying the Protocol to a specific project or land use, given the very wide range of impacts and dependencies resulting from an extensive range of integrated land based activities.

For the tenants involved, the Protocol was useful in improving their understanding of natural capital assets and ecosystem services, the business dependencies and impacts and the wider societal benefits generated from their farming activities. A range of risks and opportunities to the natural capital on the farms and estate were also identified. The assessments dovetailed well with existing business planning tools and schemes such as farm assurance schemes and agri-environment schemes, with potential to help provide evidence for funding applications and verification. It was also useful in helping to better understand the inter-dependencies between enterprises at the estate level…”

Read on at: Scottish Forum on Natural Capital.