Last year the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) published ecosystem natural capital accounts for urban areas. These accounts were published as part of the government’s commitment in the 25 Year Environment Plan to working with the ONS to develop a full set of natural capital accounts for the UK.
Each area of a particular land cover or habitat in the UK can be thought of as an asset supplying a number of services that the economy and society benefit from. For example, food, water or clean air. The ecosystem accounts monitor the size and condition of these assets and also the quantity and value of the services supplied. Parks and green spaces provide an important element of this land cover and therefore a key contributor to the services supplied.
It should be noted that Natural capital accounts are developing as a methodology and so remain in experimental status. The monetary accounts should be interpreted as a partial or minimum value of the services provided by the natural environment, as a number of ecosystem services, such as flood protection from natural resources, are not currently measured, and conservative assumptions are typically adopted where there is uncertainty.
The ecosystem accounts for urban areas demonstrate that:-
- On average, almost a third of urban area in Great Britain consists of natural land and green space.
- There are over 62,000 urban green space sites in Great Britain adapted for a specific function e.g. public gardens and parks.
- This urban natural land and green space provides society with many services including protecting urban properties from noise pollution and cooling cities by over half a degree Celsius.
- Proximity to natural land and green space can influence property values as premiums are paid for a nice view or easy access to a local park. The value associated with living near a green space is estimated to be just over £130 billion in the UK.
- The estimated societal gain associated with active visits to urban green spaces is over £4.4 billion a year.
The full report can be found here.