Innovate UK grant awarded to Natural Capital Research for BANC project

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Natural Capital Research has been awarded a GovTech Catalyst Challenge grant to work with Scottish Natural Heritage and our partners, the Ordnance Survey, on a project called Biodiversity Assessment and Natural Capital (BANC). The grant is for the development a prototype application looking at better targeting of protected areas information and advice to land managers and developers.

NCR's Head of Research, Beccy Wilebore, says "We are delighted to be given the opportunity to work with SNH, and our partners the OS and Buccleuch, on this exciting and innovative project. Access to high-quality information about the natural environment, and the potential to harm or enhance it, has never been more vital. This project will build a straightforward platform that enables land managers and developers to make informed and, ultimately, better plans for the long-term stewardship of natural assets".

Biodiversity Assessment and Natural Capital (BANC)

Over the last ten years, conservation of nature in much of the UK has seen a radical shift in its framing. The focus has moved from the protection of the more rare, endangered, and iconic species, communities and landscapes to conserving and enhancing those parts of nature that underpin important services for society, so-called "natural capital". These services provided by nature include pollination, carbon drawn-down, water regulation, soil erosion protection, and cultural services. They are termed natural capital because they provide benefits to society in terms of equitable climates, hazard risk reduction and land for recreation, good health and wildlife. However, there is a need to embed biodiversity at the heart of this new framing, to ensure that important species and landscapes are not overlooked. There is also a need to provide people who make decisions about land management, such as the SNH and individual land owners, with access to high-quality information about natural capital, including the biodiversity and services that could be lost if land were to be developed, or the potential enhancement of natural capital stocks and services through changes to management.

This project builds on cutting edge, academically rigorous data science and ecological modelling techniques developed over the last decade. These techniques will be encompassed into an innovative prototype which enables the user to define an area of interest, such as their land holding or a protected site, and the tool will assemble relevant environmental / biodiversity data on natural capital assets, services and biodiversity risks. The resulting map displays a simple index of areas important for biodiversity conservation, combined or individual ecosystem service provision, and identifies opportunities for enhancement, or environmental sensitivities. Results are available not only in the area of interest but also for surrounding landscape. The tool uses a combination of open data such as SNH habitat surveys and site condition monitoring, modelled data products produced by Natural Capital Research Ltd, and Ordnance Survey maps, to provide consistent and up-to-date information in a simple-to-use platform. The results are displayed at 20 m resolution making it an effective tool for regulators, developers, and land owners and managers alike.

This project is developed by Natural Capital Research Ltd. in partnership with the Ordnance Survey and Buccleuch.