2. Things you need to know about this release
This article looks at natural capital assets, including the flows and values of ecosystem services. Any natural resource or process that supports human life, society and the economy form an important part of our natural capital.
From these assets people can receive a flow of services, such as mountain hikes and fish captured for consumption. We can value the benefit to society those services provide by estimating for example, what the hikers spent to enable them to walk over the mountain or any profit from bringing the fish into the market. Applying this logic consistently across assets and services enables us to start building accounts of Scotland's nature.
Where available, estimates are presented between the period from 1998 to 2020 and all monetary valuations are given in 2020 prices. Owing to data coverage constraints, 2018 is the latest year for which we can estimate an overall Scottish natural capital asset value.
The Scottish and UK accounts remain experimental and future publications will be subject to methodological improvements. There have been fewer methodological improvements between the Scottish Natural Capital accounts: 2021 and the current publication than between the 2021 and Scottish natural capital accounts: 2020. However, we still caution against comparison between accounts. Please use the data available alongside this release for time series analysis.
Readers should also be cautious in how they interpret an increase or decrease in value. An increase in asset value does not directly imply an increase in the quality or quantity of an asset. For instance, in the coming year we can expect food prices to increase due to the war in Ukraine since Ukraine is a significant food exporter and Russia is a significant source of fertiliser. Relatedly, farming in Scotland might be more profitable with no actual change in yield. The change in value is still interesting but requires further analysis.
This is equally true of "air pollution removal" which might show a fall in value when in fact it is the total air pollution requiring removal that has fallen. This example would be a positive outcome and is not necessarily a sign that Scottish vegetation's capacity to remove air pollution has degraded.
Several ecosystem services are not being measured in this article, such as flood mitigation and water quality regulation and tourism, so the monetary accounts should be interpreted as a partial or minimum value of Scottish natural capital.
Our asset values are not an absolute "value" of the price we would accept to sell the entire natural world. The natural world supports all life on earth, and its collapse would precipitate our own, implying infinite value.
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