How natural capital approach can benefit farmers and the planet

Posted on: 18 February 2021

A new animated video has been released to introduce the concept of Natural Capital Accounting to the farming community and agri-food industry.

Produced by Natural Capital Ireland in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, the video shows how the Natural Capital approach – a standardised method to assess nature’s stocks and flows – can help us all to consider the hidden economic and environmental value in a farm.

This can include soil health, biodiversity, carbon storage, water quality and flood mitigation, as well as cultural and heritage value, and mental health and wellbeing.

Professor Jane Stout, from Trinity’s School of Natural Sciences, is Chair of the Board of Natural Capital Ireland. She said:

“There’s lots of unrecognised and overlooked value in Irish farmland. Both in terms of the natural capital it supports, and the ecosystem services and benefits that flow from it. Quantifying that natural capital, including biodiversity of habitats and species, and the service flows from them, and tracking it over time in Natural Capital Accounts, can be a useful tool for farmers and policymakers.

“These accounts can help inform decision-making and planning, as well as developing incentives to protect and restore nature on farmland.”

The farming families of Ireland can be powerful allies for nature conservation. Responsible for so much of Ireland’s land management, farmers are on the frontline when it comes to tackling the biodiversity crisis, especially armed with the right knowledge and support.

The European Green Deal states that “all EU policies should contribute to preserving and restoring Europe’s natural capital” and the new EU Biodiversity Strategy states that by 2050, “the EU’s natural capital will be protected, valued and appropriately restored”.

As this approach becomes more integrated into national policy, it will allow farmers, policymakers, ecologists, and the wider community to work together to make more sustainable practices the norm and will illustrate how often simple measures and adjustments regarding land use, pesticide use, hedge-cutting practices etc can be of enormous short-term and long-term benefit for the planet, with the potential for economic advantages for the farmer too.

Welcoming the video, Pippa Hackett, Minister for Land Use and Biodiversity, said:

“I look forward to a time when we all speak easily about Natural Capital. The services nature provides are so widespread and so important that we should be recognising them almost without thinking. And we must start accounting for them too. There is quite a distance to go, of course, before we get to that stage, which is why videos like this one, which help us get comfortable with the concept, are so valuable.”

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