Sustainability Theme 3: Natural Capital and

Ecosystem Services including soils and biodiversity

Natural capital refers to the elements of nature that produce value directly and indirectly to people, such as the stock of forests, rivers, land, minerals and oceans. It includes the living aspects of nature, such as fish stocks, as well as the non-living aspects such as minerals and energy resources.

Natural capital provides a huge range of benefits to us. These benefits, frequently referred to as ecosystem services, include the provision of food, materials, clean water, clean air, climate regulation, flood prevention, pollination, recreation and wellbeing.

Since the flow of services from ecosystems requires that they function as whole systems, the structure and diversity of ecosystems are important components of natural capital. In this regard biodiversity, soil composition, land cover and land use are important elements to consider.

We continue to seriously degrade our natural capital, undermining our resilience to environmental shocks and jeopardising our sustainability. Sustainable management of natural capital is therefore required to protect and enhance the services we derive from it.

This will require an integrated and cross-sectoral approach embedding ecosystem approaches such as natural capital, ecosystem services and green infrastructure into policy and practice.

Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services research will have three sub-themes:

  • Evaluation/Assessment of our Natural Capital.
  • Managing, Protecting & Restoring our Natural Capital.
  • Governance & Behavioural Changes.

Other Sustainability Research Themes