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What benefits does nature provide us?

The benefits that nature provides are sometimes called ecosystem services. Whatever they are called, most of us appreciate them, even if we do not know their true value - whether it's a local park where we go to wind down or thoughts of wider landscapes, coasts, mountains, lochs or woodland.

Benefits from nature range from the complex biological processes that create soil and clean water to inspiring landscapes and wildlife spectacles.

Natural Benefits shows how the natural environment contributes to Community Planning Partnership priorities.

The overall value of nature to people and its economic importance has been demonstrated by two studies: the UK National Ecosystem Assessment external site (NEA) and The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity external site .  For example, the peatland soils of Scotland are estimated to store 10 times more carbon than all UK trees, and the value of insect pollination services in Scotland is estimated at £43 million per year.

The National Ecosystem Assessment shows that over the past decades, changes to Scotland's natural environment have meant that, overall, benefits from nature have declined.   There have been changes in land use, in air, water and soil quality, and in wildlife populations.  Some of these, like water quality, have recently improved.  We need to work together to make the most of the benefits nature provides and build a sustainable future for Scotland. 

Scotland's Environment Web external site illustrates the benefits that nature provides for us

Scottish Natural Heritage was a partner with 2020VISION external site  which used visual media to convey the value of restoring our most important but often fragmented natural habitats - to show that healthy ecosystems are not just for wildlife, but are something fundamental to us all.

These short films demonstrate the benefits from looking after nature:

More than just a forest external site (produced by 2020VISION with support from Forestry Commission Scotland and Cairngorms National Park Authority)

What do wetlands do for you? external site (produced by Scottish Natural Heritage with help from RSPB)

Why do we need an ecosystems approach?

We need to work with nature, rather than against it, to make the most of the benefits it provides. This will mean working together across all sectors in society, because, in nature everything is connected.

An ecosystems approach provides a way of doing this so that the benefits of nature are included in the way we manage the land, water and sea.

People who attended a recent Sharing Good Practice event on An Ecosystems Approach in Action thought that an ecosystems approach can:

  • help resolve problems like poor quality surroundings, declining resources and increased demands on the environment
  • help resolve conflicts between competing priorities, making clear what decisions mean for different interests
  • help to make visible those services - or benefits from nature - that do not have a market value, like health benefits 
  • help to promote collaboration and efficiency across different public policies and plans
  • save money by allowing nature to work for people rather than depending only on human solutions
  • help people to think about the implications of decisions for future generations and for those beyond the local area

Find out more:

What is an ecosystems approach?

How to apply an ecosystems approach

Last updated on Monday 13th March 2017 at 12:13 PM. Click here to comment on this page