Hidden wealth of nature ‘worth billions’ – new report
UK may pay the price for ignoring ‘ecosystem services’ A new report released today (2 June) suggests the health benefits of being close to nature and green spaces could be worth up to £300 per person each year.
The Government’s National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) puts an emphasis on ‘ecosystem services’ – the often hidden benefits that our natural world supplies above and beyond the socio-economic advantages of a growing economy.
The news has been welcomed by the region’s leading environmental charity the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, who have been campaigning for a wider approach to wildlife conservation through their Living Landscape scheme.
The Trust is undertaking both community and practical conservation projects across an area of the Gowy & Mersey Washlands to restore, reconnect and recreate traditional wildlife habitats.
The Trust’s director of conservation Charlotte Harris said: “This report further strengthens our approach to ‘landscape scale’ conservation, and not simply protecting wildlife in isolated pockets.
“Our own network of 44 nature reserves provides people with opportunities to enjoy the health benefits of the outdoors for free, but it’s also crucial that we maintain our relationships with landowners and the farming community to ensure that wildlife is flourishing outside these areas, in turn joining up the wider wildlife jigsaw within our countryside.
“A healthy river is not only good for otters and water voles, but also means our water supply is cleaner too – and if riverside habitats are managed effectively, our ability to manage flood situations is also increased.”
The Trust also points to easily overlooked creatures such as bumblebees and butterflies that are at the heart of rural industries and food production through the pollinating service they provide.
Cheshire is also home to a number of key habitats that can play a role in tackling climate change such as peat bogs that lock away Carbon Dioxide (CO2), as long as they remain wet and are managed sensitively.
Ms Harris added: “We have a mixed bag of ecosystem services in Cheshire, with our peat bogs holding the potential to store vast amounts to the ‘greenhouse gas’ CO2, but on the other hand the lowest volume of woodland in the UK – a habitat this provides the lungs for our clean air.
“It may seem bizarre to attach pound signs to our birds, bees and wildflowers but hopefully this new report demonstrates that we ignore the natural world on our doorstep at our own risk.”
The report suggests that almost a third of the UK’s ecosystem services are currently degrading, with just one in five improving.
You can find out more about the Wildlife Trusts Living Landscape scheme on Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s website at www.cheshirewildlifetrust.co.uk