UK ecosystems undervalued and weakening

13th June 2011

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  • Natural resources ,
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Almost one-third of the UK's ecosystems services are in decline and decision makers have consistently failed to consider the billions of pounds the natural environment brings to the economy, according to the first National Ecosystems Assessment (NEA).

The NEA examines and places a financial value on the benefits ecosystems services provide, from clean drinking water and flood control to natural medicine and aesthetic pleasure.

Pollinators such as bees, for example, are estimated to be worth £430 million each year to the country’s agricultural sector.

The assessment outlines six possible futures for the country with differring appreciation of the value of ecosystems services.

Looking forward to 2060, the report estimates that a focus only on the market value of ecosystems services goods, such as foodstuffs, could cost the country £50 billion a year in comparison with a future that incorporates a wider understanding of the value of ecosystems.

“There is an urgent need to better manage our ecosystems and the natural resources they provide us with,” said Professor Bob Watson, chief scientist at Defra and co-chair of the NEA.

“The NEA shows we need a more integrated approach to ecosystem management, involving government, the private sector, voluntary groups and the public working together to protect the services nature provides.”

Meanwhile, the European Commission has announced a new strategy to halt biodiversity loss by 2020.

The commission plans to create legislation combating invasive biological species and pledges to further integrate biodiversity monitoring and reporting into the Common Agricultural Policy.

It also expects all EU member states to assess their ecosystems and develop a strategic framework to set priorities for ecosystem restoration by 2014.

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