1. Main points
Natural capital is the world’s stock of natural resources. This includes air, water, minerals and all living things. These natural resources underpin our society and economy because they provide a wide range of benefits (e.g. pollution removal, carbon sequestration, flood management etc.). These benefits are often known as ‘eco-system services’.
The benefits derived from our natural assets can be divided into three categories:
- provisioning services that create products such as food, water, and minerals.
- regulating services such as air pollution removal and carbon sequestration; and
- cultural services such as recreational use of nature.
This publication looks at natural capital assets, including the physical and monetary flows of assets and the values of services that they provide. These terms help us think logically about how to measure aspects of the natural world and their impact upon people. Throughout, the benefits resulting from our natural assets are grouped by the types of services that they provide (i.e. provisioning, regulating or cultural).
Scotland’s natural capital accounts have been produced by the Office for National Statistics who also produce UK natural capital accounts. Several ecosystem services are not being measured in this article, such as flood mitigation and wider recreation values found in tourism as opposed to the day visits we do capture, so the monetary accounts should be interpreted as a partial or minimum value of Scottish natural capital.
- Scottish natural capital assets that we can currently value were estimated to be £156 billion in 2017, 17% of the UK asset value.
- The total asset value has fallen from £191 billion in 2016. This decrease is due to a fall in the asset value of fossil fuels, driven by a fall in the global price of oil.
- 55% of the total asset value came from provisioning services. The largest element of this was fossil fuels, which accounted for 30% of the total Scottish asset value in 2017.
- The asset value of regulating and cultural services, which are not directly included in national accounts, amounted to £68 billion in 2017, or 44% of Scotland’s total quantified natural asset value. The largest single service not included in national accounts was carbon sequestration (a regulating service) with an asset value of £42 billion in 2017.
Annual monetary flows
- The total value of annual monetary flows in 2017 was £7 billion. The largest monetary annual flow was from fossil fuels (£4 billion), followed by carbon sequestration (£775 million) and agricultural biomass (£562 million).
- The timber provisioning service valuation has increased by 253% over the last decade from £69 million in 2009 to £244 million in 2019. This has been driven by a 21% increase in production and a 191% increase in price over the last decade
- Living near publicly accessible green and blue spaces added on average £2,438 to property prices in Scottish urban areas during 2016.
Annual physical flows
- On average 70% of UK waters fish capture tonnage came from Scottish waters between 2015 and 2018.
- Scottish renewable energy generation reached 28,236 GWh in 2019, increasing by 743% from 2003, driven largely by growing wind energy provisioning.
- During 2018, over 1 billion hours were spent on Scottish outdoor recreation (including travel time) over an estimated 534 million visits.