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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.


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.