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James Hutton Institute joins the Natural Capital Initiative

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We are delighted and honoured to be joining the Natural Capital Initiative.

The James Hutton Institute has joined a leading UK partnership that brings together scientists, policymakers, business, industry and others to discuss how to safeguard important ecosystems.

The Natural Capital Initiative was founded by the British Ecological Society, the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the Society of Biology. Now Scotland’s largest, environmental research organisation is to join them to help champion what is called the ecosystem approach. This is a way of looking at whole ecosystems in decision-making and valuing the goods and services that they provide.

The Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, Professor Iain Gordon, said: “We are delighted and honoured to be joining the Natural Capital Initiative. We see this venture as being hugely significant as the world continues to come to terms with the impact of environmental change.

“Around the world people and their governments are facing growing demands for more food, energy and water from finite land and natural resources. These challenges are complex, interconnected and ever-changing. It is one of the main reasons why the James Hutton Institute has been formed.”

The Natural Capital Initiative was founded in 2008 and launched at a high-profile symposium “Valuing our Life Support Systems” at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in April 2009. Its role is to:

  • Provide an independent and inclusive forum for debate
  • Identify gaps in science, policy and its implementation and facilitate the debate about how to address these gaps
  • Liaise with, and inform, key government, research council and other initiatives
  • Engage the public and inspire the next generation.

The James Hutton Institute will play an important role in the development of the activities of the Natural Capital Initiative, to help raise the profile of natural capital through its contributions to ecosystem services and human wellbeing.

The James Hutton Institute has a strong track record of exemplary research and public engagement, and will bring a wide range of inter-disciplinary expertise to the Natural Capital Initiative. This will include both a well-established base of natural scientists, but also social science specialists with focus areas of natural resource governance, ecosystem services valuation, and sustainable behaviours.

With offices in Aberdeen and Dundee, a long-established relationship with Scottish Government and a large programme of natural capital research in Scotland, the Institute will provide a UK-wide portfolio of expertise to the Natural Capital Initiative. In addition, the James Hutton Institute is well placed to contribute to developing the Natural Capital Initiative’s international profile, and support work on the application of natural capital accounting for macroeconomic and microeconomic decision making.

Notes for editors

Natural Capital is used to describe a stock or resource that produces revenue or yield. Natural capital is usually interpreted as an economic metaphor for environmental assets, such as forests, soils or marine habitats that supply resources to the economy or offer a receptacle for disposal of wastes. Four basic categories of natural capital are generally recognised: air, water (fresh, groundwater and marine), land (including soil, space and landscape) and habitats (including the ecosystems, flora and fauna which they both comprise and support). The quantity and the quality of natural capital affect the quantity and quality of benefits generated.

Natural capital sits alongside the other four forms of capital (financial, manufactured, human and social) in the language of economists. This terminology serves to emphasise that natural capital has value, and that measurement of this value will enable the full consequences of different actions to become apparent. Natural capital accounting reinforces our understanding of the risk that lack of information may lead to an assumed value of zero for the environment, with consequent risks for decision-makers and for society.

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.