Chief Executive Officer, Zulu Forest Sciences
Land stewards, farmers, private and institutional landholders are facing a whirlwind of change from shifts in the policy landscape, subsidy regime and rising input costs.
Into this mix, the markets for ‘natural capital’ are gaining momentum. The idea is that landholders can more directly enhance and monetise those natural ‘assets’ that provide humanity the ‘services’ on which our lives depend.
Nature is the backbone of our food systems and our health. Yet, trends in soil degradation and erosion, loss of insect pollinators, increased flood and fire risks suggest our natural assets are rapidly degrading.
Responding to the crises
The good news is that governments and markets are waking up to the essential role of landholders in responding to the climate and biodiversity crises. This creates tangible financial opportunities through rapidly growing markets for carbon, biodiversity and other ecosystem services.
Restoration projects on marginal sites can increase and diversify returns for landholders, while enhancing the long-term value and resilience of their properties. Examples include woodland creation, peatland restoration and other habitat improvements. Regenerative farming practices can reduce costs and risks while improving the value of produce to buyers.
The challenge is to understand which natural capital opportunities are most relevant to you and what are the cost-benefit trade-offs of each.
Landholders play an essential role in responding to the climate and biodiversity crises.
Start with the big picture
Before investing in detailed ecological surveys, you can learn a lot from technology-based assessments of your landholding, using existing data and scientific best practice.
These can give you actionable insights on the natural capital opportunities and risks on your property. Forecasts of project costs, funding grants and financial returns can help you plan.
This same approach can be quickly and easily replicated across clusters of neighbouring properties. Landscape-based projects generally have lower costs and better financing terms, while delivering more benefits to nature and the community.
Having a good overview of your natural capital opportunities will help you focus your scarce time and resources where they will have most impact.