Developing ecosystem accounts for protected areas in England and Scotland

Horsey Mill

Client: Defra and Scottish Government

Cumulus Consultants was part of a consortium led by AECOM commissioned by Defra and the Scottish Government to develop ecosystem accounts for a selected suite of protected and other landscape areas in England and Scotland.


During the year-long project, we contributed to the scoping and selection of six pilot areas, the development of an accounting framework and the production of ecosystem accounts for each area.

Each set of accounts comprised:

  • Asset accounts, measuring the extent and condition of six ecosystems (habitats) in terms of their capacity to provide ecosystem service flows.
  • Physical flow accounts, measuring the actual flows of fifteen ecosystem services.
  • Monetary flow accounts, measuring the value of these flows in monetary terms.

The report, launched in 2015, sets out the lessons learned and makes recommendations for developing the accounting framework further.

Findings and recommendations

Key findings include:

  • The ecosystem service with the highest total value was air quality regulation followed by climate regulation, provision of drinking water, and recreation.
  • The ecosystem or habitat with the highest total value of services provided was woodlands. The highest value per unit area was provided by coastal margins.
  • For some services, there are no suitable physical indicators or reliable approaches for valuation e.g. flood protection.

Key recommendations include:

  • Further research into the links between asset extent and condition, ecosystem service flows and beneficiaries.
  • Develop understanding of certain priority services e.g. filtration, flood protection.
  • Develop standardised workbooks to estimate physical and monetary flows of services more easily.
  • Develop decision support tools to integrate this information into decision-making.

Key benefits:

  • Produced ecosystem accounts for protected and other land areas in England and Scotland for the first time
  • Established a single framework for data collection and a range of new methodologies.
  • Enables high-level monitoring of ecosystem condition and service provision alongside traditional national accounts.
  • Informs local-level decision-making in terms of ecosystem management, funding and investment.


The final report, including a technical report and summary reports for each pilot area, can be accessed here.

An impressive piece of work… these accounts will be helpful to the protected area authorities in how they think about and manage ecosystem services…. more generally the work is enormously helpful for the wider development of habitat accounts under the ONS-Defra Natural Capital Accounting Roadmap.