UK National Ecosystem Assessment

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) is the first analysis of the UK’s natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and continuing economic prosperity. Coordinated by UNEP-WCMC and part of the Living With Environmental Change (LWEC) initiative the UK NEA released its findings in June 2011. It was an inclusive process involving many government, academic, NGO and private sector institutions.

Funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Devolved Administrations and two Research Councils (NERC and ESRC), the driving force for the UK NEA came from the findings of the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.

The UK assessment provides a comprehensive picture of past, present and possible future trends in ecosystem services, their values and response options. The UK NEA demonstrates the potential use of ecosystem assessment in decision-making at many levels of governance.

The evidence base, a 1,450 page technical report, underpinning the key messages and findings in the Synthesis was the culmination of the most comprehensive ecosystem assessment undertaken by any nation and involved over 500 natural and social scientists as well as economists.

The UK NEA has influenced the The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature, the first white paper (in England) on the natural environment in 20 years. The paper stated that “the Government will support further phase of ground-breaking research..[and] develop practical tools to assist decision-makers in applying the lessons of the NEA.”

UK National Ecosystem Assessment Follow-on Phase

The government is committed to adding to this knowledge base and is therefore supporting a two year long follow-on phase of the UK NEA. This phase will further develop and promote the arguments that the UK NEA put forward and make them applicable to decision and policy making at a range of spatial scales across the UK to a wide range of stakeholders.

The research component of the UK NEA follow-on phase will focus on the following four areas:

► The further development of the economic analysis of the UK NEA to increase the breadth of ecosystem services analysed, to broaden our understanding of the value of natural capital stocks and ways in which this value can be better represented in national wealth accounts, as well as analyse the macroeconomic implications of the findings of the UK NEA.

► Further exploration of cultural ecosystem services and how cultural, shared and plural values for ecosystem services can be better understood and operationalised into a range of decision making contexts alongside economic analyses.

► Development of the analysis of future ecosystem changes, applying and developing the UK NEA scenarios to enable and enhance the outputs of the other objectives and to examine a range of societal responses to the possible future changes.

► The development and enhancement of tools and other supporting materials for use by a range of key user groups from the public, private and voluntary sectors, to enable them to make best use of this evidence. The balance in emphasis between developing totally new tools or enhancing existing assessment processes will depend upon an initial review of user needs.

The follow-on phase will be funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), The Welsh Government and three research councils: the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and coordinate with and leverage numerous ongoing research activities throughout the UK.

For more details about the UK NEA, the follow-on phase and to download the Synthesis and technical report visit