The outputs from the NatCapMap online environmental mapping tool include a topsoil carbon storage map
The outputs from the NatCapMap online environmental mapping tool include a topsoil carbon storage map.

As landowners, estate managers and farm businesses adapt to the new post-EU subsidy regimes and the 2020 Agriculture Act across the UK, they must prepare to provide robust evidence of environmental improvements and enhancements. To demonstrate this, they need an accurate natural capital baseline.

To meet this need, Oxford-based Natural Capital Research Limited (NatCap Research) has launched NatCapMap, the first comprehensive online environmental mapping tool in the UK to help landowners, estate managers, farm businesses and others to quickly and easily identify and measure their natural capital assets, and then report improvements over time. This baseline then provides a rock-solid basis for the development of ESG, biodiversity and net zero carbon strategies.

Created by internationally reknowned academics using world-leading modelling and data techniques, the online tool enables users to map their natural capital assets, and receive the information in a downloadable report. The tool also maps the ecosystem service flows provided by those assets – that is, the benefits for human wellbeing provided, such as carbon storage, CO2 sequestration, flood risk reduction, recreation, biodiversity and others.

According to NatCap Research co-founder and director Professor Kathy Willis, post-EU subsidy arrangements are still evolving across the UK, but it’s already clear that landowners, estates and farmers will need the highest-quality evidence of natural capital assets and ecosystem system flows to access public funding.

“NatCapMap provides such evidence for land across England, Scotland and Wales, providing a powerful environmental business planning tool for estates and farms of different sizes,” she added.

One key focus of the team at NatCap Research is to help landowners and land managers prepare for the Agriculture Act 2020 that sets out the new post-Brexit approach for agriculture support in England, where it represents the biggest change to the subsidy regime since the 1970s, with the EU’s per hectare basic farm payment (BFP) being superseded by the principle of “public money for public goods” and the transition to the Environmental Land Management Scheme in 2024. NatCapMap also then sets a solid baseline for the development of landowners’ environmental enhancement strategies going forward.

NatCap Research co-founder and chairman Professor Sir Dieter Helm said that under this new framework, landowners will need to evidence their natural capital baseline to claim subsidies effectively.

“The private sector too – from shareholders to ESG investors to carbon markets – as well as NGOs and other stakeholders will increasingly want rock-solid evidence of natural assets and environmental baselines and enhancements,” he added. “With our reports providing accurate detail down to 25m, NatCapMap provides the credible evidence base that’s needed for all these different audiences. And it then provides the credible starting point for initiating and monitoring environmental enhancements over time.”

NatCapMap has been created for a range of users from landowners and land agents to property developers, allowing them to:

  • understand their natural capital assets and best options for environmental enhancement and improvement;
  • prepare for new subsidy opportunities, such as England’s Sustainable Farming Incentive and Environmental Land Management Scheme; and
  • report robustly to Government departments and agencies in England, Wales and Scotland, and to investors and other stakeholders.

Key features of the tool include:

  • downloadable baseline reports of natural assets and ecosystem service flows, with options for opportunity mapping and valuations;
  • mapping covers any user-defined area in England, Scotland Wales, to 25m resolution;
  • report details include landcover; forest, trees & hedges; and topographical variations; and
  • service benefits mapped range from carbon storage and CO2 sequestration to flood risk prevention, landscapes important for biodiversity and pollination services.