The challenge

Our society, economy and personal wellbeing depend upon a healthy environment, encompassing natural and highly modified systems. It provides food, clean air and water, and countless other inputs to everything we produce and consume. Our environment also provides us with services including flood, pollution and climate regulation, and pest and disease control.

The National Ecosystem Assessment (2011) shows that, along with biodiversity, a number of these services are in decline. By determining the quality, quantity and risks to the resources and services provided by our environment, we will inform and develop strategies to meet the increasing demands for this ‘natural capital’.

CEH uniquely provides measures, assessment and mapping of natural capital and ecosystem services, alongside conservation, restoration and remediation, supporting the supply of water, food and energy.

Society has successfully exploited many aspects of natural capital to generate economic growth and improvements to our wellbeing. Yet demands on already overstretched natural systems are increasing, alongside mounting demographic pressures and environmental change. This situation cannot continue indefinitely. It requires high quality monitoring and objective assessment to provide the evidence-base for effective action, to safeguard and improve society’s environmental legacy. 

Example projects

  • CEH has worked with partners to deliver three major web-based platforms for data and information delivery each of which provide key information about the natural environment and natural capital of the UK: the SouthWest Portal, the UK Soils Observatory and the UK Environmental Observation Forum monitoring catalogue.
  • The CEH Land Cover Map and the British Geological Survey’s Parent Material Model to predict national soil microbial community distributions based on data from a sample of over 1000 soils covering Great Britain.
  • Ecomaps has been developed to produce national maps of natural capital metrics based on site data from Countryside Survey and the continuous maps of, for example, land cover, climate and geology. The Ecomaps software has been integrated with the CEH Environmental Information Platform web portal. Analyses from Ecomaps are being used to support the UK Soils Observatory and the DEFRA Sustainable Intensification project.