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Bringing in participatory approaches to widen the scope of natural capital valuation

Forestry plot at Lochcarron

The Scottish Government’s aspiration is to increase the contribution of natural capital to a broader range of economic and social benefits. This target is embedded in policies. However, the Dasgupta Report and other documents stress that humanity underestimates the value of nature leading to its ‘overconsumption’. Thus, an improved understanding of the mechanisms to capture the values of natural capital is needed, exemplifying the importance of natural capital in relation to climate change, spurring the provision of ecosystem services (e.g., of public goods) and/or enhancing the condition of ‘nature’ (e.g., through rewilding).

Natural capital valuation can offer a basis for decision-making and monitoring the effects of policies, and land and resource management decisions. Therefore, this inter- transdisciplinary research was designed to answer the questions of:

  1. What are the gaps in current natural capital valuation?
  2. Which of the dimensions of value would it be helpful to consider?
  3. How could these values be captured, measured, valued to support more robust and end-user friendly participatory planning, knowledge transfer and decision-making systems?

We are working in a participatory environment where stakeholder engagement, brand-new technology, and advanced scientific methodology are brought together. We believe that the proposed integration of methods and their use of in a socially innovative milieu, with a framework and new knowledge to be co-constructed with end-users (along with other benefits) will enable:

  1. Wider incorporation of inputs from end-users into natural capital valuation (with added value of spatial analysis on factors, which support the interpretation of ecosystem services context in space, and of their changes through time);
  2. To encounter trade-offs among values held by different groups of stakeholders and different individuals;
  3. To consider other trade-offs, complexities and uncertainties that are not yet captured in decision-making; and
  4. Offer more inclusive, comprehensive, and impartial insights into the social value of ecosystem services that humans derive from natural capital (e.g., of Scottish woodlands). We anticipate that widening of the scope of natural capital valuation by bringing in participatory approaches will create pathways to societal impacts by providing opportunities to embed natural capital thinking into real world situations.

Staff involved and key contacts

The Project PI is Maria Nijnik ( Other staff involved are Simone Martino, Stanislav Martinat of SEGS and Margaret McKeen and Chen Wang of ICS. More colleagues are anticipated to join; the recruitment process is in place.


On 5-7 September 2022, Prof Maria Nijnik, PI of JHI-D5-1, participated in the IUFRO Conference on Managerial economics & accounting, held in Hamburg. It brought together 38 participants from 12 countries. Dr John A. Parrotta, President of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), in his welcome speech, pointed out a central role of Natural Capital (NC) Valuation and Accounting as a tool to ensure that the values and services are sustainably provided by ecosystems. JHI-D5-1 team submitted a proposal on this topic for a the IUFRO World Congress 2024

And in Hamburg, the PI of JHI-D5-1 explained how Valuation of NC can help transform land-use planning and decision-making, tackle potential conflicts linked to demands on ecosystem services and guide the prevention of damages and losses. The knowledge shared contributed to providing evidence to underpin the decision making. It was derived from this project and the H2020 projects of SHERPA, FirEUrisk and SIMRA supported by the European Commission.

The conference concluded that environmental awareness and perceived threats to NC are increasing and refinement of valuation methods, according to new environmental and social conditions, is needed. The event promoted a dialogue between researchers, policymakers, citizens, and practitioners engaged in forestry and related fields under the bio-economy paradigm and the rural, and environmental and climate policy and research agendas.

The Conference has been widely promoted, e.g., at, with the Conference Proceedings made available, and on Twitter, Linkedin, etc. For further information, contact Maria Nijnik


This project is supported by the Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division of the Scottish Government through its Strategic Research Programme (2022-2027). It is project JHI-D5-1 in the Natural Resources theme.

Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest

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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.