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LAND360 Case Study: Helping North York Moors Farmers to Understand their Natural Capital
Fera is supporting a group of farmers in the North York Moors to collectively measure the natural capital they manage to help futureproof their businesses.
Over 100 farmers and land managers across the North York Moors are working with Fera and partners to protect and enhance natural capital within the iconic National Park.
This 15-month project, funded by Defra, is focused on identifying profitable ways producers can improve the environment and the benefits of working as a collective group.
The Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) Phase 3 Test and Trial project kicked off in April 2022. The first stage involved Fera scientists using advanced remote sensing technology and geographic information systems (GIS) to create a detailed map of the 1,436km2 National Park.
The landscape, which includes heather moorland, forests and coastline, was mapped into different habitat areas, documenting various types of natural capital present.
Each ‘habitat parcel’ has subsequently been given a score based on carbon storage capacity and biodiversity value – a vital starting point for exploring natural capital income opportunities.
How Farmers Benefit from Mapping Natural Capital - Rebecca Thompson, Head of Farming and Land Management at the North York Moors National Park Authority
“The baseline mapping process we’ve undertaken with Fera and other partners has provided a fantastic bank of landscape data for us to share with farmers involved in this project. It gives them an accurate picture of the natural assets present on the land they manage.
“We’ve seen these farmers are all committed to the idea of delivering public goods for public money, but there’s also a lot of uncertainty around which environmental projects to get involved with.
“By carrying out this extensive mapping process, we’re creating a rich pool of data for farmers to base decisions on. It means we’re not blindly stabbing in the dark about the best environmental strategy for a particular holding.”
Why Farmers should work together to Harness their Natural Capital - Glyn Jones, Fera Head of Science (Plant)
“Because of the rapidly changing policy landscape, we encourage farmers and land managers to work together to help deliver the ecosystem services everyone is seeking. It’s why projects like this one, taking place in the North York Moors, are so important.
“Mapping landscapes is a lot more feasible, practically and from a cost perspective, across a larger area which incorporates multiple farm holdings.
“When it comes to accessing investment for carbon sequestration or biodiversity net gain projects, individual farmers aren’t necessarily at a scale that will attract private sector funding.
“Within the National Park, farms are typically 60-80 ha in size, hence why it’s so beneficial to bring farmers together as we have done for this project.
“By working collectively on natural capital projects, farmers can have a greater impact on the environment and really make a difference for the future.”
Valuing Natural Capital Opportunities for Farm Businesses within the North York Moors
Building on the natural capital mapping, Fera scientists have also been supporting the National Park team to show farmers how nature recovery projects could add value to their businesses.
This has involved modelling investment scenarios in relation to carbon sequestration and biodiversity net gain opportunities.
Sharing these predictions at farmer workshops has helped to bring potential environmental projects to life and show their commercial value within a farm business plan.
The long-term aim is that more farmers across the region will be able to apply this tried-and-tested economic modelling tool to their own holding and plan individual land-use scenarios to futureproof their businesses.