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REVIEW: Towards a risk register for natural capital

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Natural capital is essential for goods and services on which people depend. Yet pressures on the environment mean that natural capital assets are continuing to decline and degrade, putting such benefits at risk. Systematic monitoring of natural assets is a major challenge that could be both unaffordable and unmanageable without a way to focus efforts. Here we introduce a simple approach, based on the commonly used management tool of a risk register, to highlight natural assets whose condition places benefits at risk.

We undertake a preliminary assessment using a risk register for natural capital assets in the UK based solely on existing information. The status and trends of natural capital assets are assessed using asset–benefit relationships for ten kinds of benefits (food, fibre (timber), energy, aesthetics, freshwater (quality), recreation, clean air, wildlife, hazard protection and equable climate) across eight broad habitat types in the UK based on three dimensions of natural capital within each of the habitat types (quality, quantity and spatial configuration). We estimate the status and trends of benefits relative to societal targets using existing regulatory limits and policy commitments, and allocate scores of high, medium or low risk to asset–benefit relationships that are both subject to management and of concern.

The risk register approach reveals substantial gaps in knowledge about asset–benefit relationships which limit the scope and rigour of the assessment (especially for marine and urban habitats). Nevertheless, we find strong indications that certain assets (in freshwater, mountain, moors and heathland habitats) are at high risk in relation to their ability to sustain certain benefits (especially freshwater, wildlife and climate regulation).

Synthesis and applications. With directed data gathering, especially to monitor trends, improve metrics related to asset–benefit relationships, and improve understanding of nonlinearities and thresholds, the natural capital risk register could provide a useful tool. If updated regularly, it could direct monitoring efforts, focus research and protect and manage those natural assets where benefits are at highest risk.

Synthesis and applications. With directed data gathering, especially to monitor trends, improve metrics related to asset–benefit relationships, and improve understanding of nonlinearities and thresholds, the natural capital risk register could provide a useful tool. If updated regularly, it could direct monitoring efforts, focus research and protect and manage those natural assets where benefits are at highest risk.

No MeSH data available.


(a) Risk register scoring matrix; (b) The risk register results showing broad habitats as columns, and benefits as rows. The grey cells indicate relationships that were assessed to not be significant or where there is no information from which to make an assessment. Where the relationship is known to the extent that an assessment is possible, the colour of the cell shows the risk rating for the relationship, using the scoring matrix in Fig. 3a. This indicates that the quantity (Qun), quality (Qul) and spatial configuration (Sp.) of the broad habitat type have significant consequence for the benefits; red indicates it is at high risk, orange at medium risk and green at low risk. The density of the colour weakens with more uncertainty (see Table S1 and S2).
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jpe12431-fig-0003: (a) Risk register scoring matrix; (b) The risk register results showing broad habitats as columns, and benefits as rows. The grey cells indicate relationships that were assessed to not be significant or where there is no information from which to make an assessment. Where the relationship is known to the extent that an assessment is possible, the colour of the cell shows the risk rating for the relationship, using the scoring matrix in Fig. 3a. This indicates that the quantity (Qun), quality (Qul) and spatial configuration (Sp.) of the broad habitat type have significant consequence for the benefits; red indicates it is at high risk, orange at medium risk and green at low risk. The density of the colour weakens with more uncertainty (see Table S1 and S2).

Mentions: The risk register provides a risk classification for each characteristic and habitat type and benefit using the relationships outlined in Fig. 2. The risk assessment matrix (Fig. 3a) shows the risk scoring as high (red), medium (orange) or low (green) based on whether the benefit level is currently above or below target and whether the asset is deteriorating and how rapidly (see Table S2). Each relationship was assessed for the strength of the evidence and for the agreement among assessors, and an uncertainty score was determined for each one (Table S2).


REVIEW: Towards a risk register for natural capital
(a) Risk register scoring matrix; (b) The risk register results showing broad habitats as columns, and benefits as rows. The grey cells indicate relationships that were assessed to not be significant or where there is no information from which to make an assessment. Where the relationship is known to the extent that an assessment is possible, the colour of the cell shows the risk rating for the relationship, using the scoring matrix in Fig. 3a. This indicates that the quantity (Qun), quality (Qul) and spatial configuration (Sp.) of the broad habitat type have significant consequence for the benefits; red indicates it is at high risk, orange at medium risk and green at low risk. The density of the colour weakens with more uncertainty (see Table S1 and S2).
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Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
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jpe12431-fig-0003: (a) Risk register scoring matrix; (b) The risk register results showing broad habitats as columns, and benefits as rows. The grey cells indicate relationships that were assessed to not be significant or where there is no information from which to make an assessment. Where the relationship is known to the extent that an assessment is possible, the colour of the cell shows the risk rating for the relationship, using the scoring matrix in Fig. 3a. This indicates that the quantity (Qun), quality (Qul) and spatial configuration (Sp.) of the broad habitat type have significant consequence for the benefits; red indicates it is at high risk, orange at medium risk and green at low risk. The density of the colour weakens with more uncertainty (see Table S1 and S2).
Mentions: The risk register provides a risk classification for each characteristic and habitat type and benefit using the relationships outlined in Fig. 2. The risk assessment matrix (Fig. 3a) shows the risk scoring as high (red), medium (orange) or low (green) based on whether the benefit level is currently above or below target and whether the asset is deteriorating and how rapidly (see Table S2). Each relationship was assessed for the strength of the evidence and for the agreement among assessors, and an uncertainty score was determined for each one (Table S2).

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Natural capital is essential for goods and services on which people depend. Yet pressures on the environment mean that natural capital assets are continuing to decline and degrade, putting such benefits at risk. Systematic monitoring of natural assets is a major challenge that could be both unaffordable and unmanageable without a way to focus efforts. Here we introduce a simple approach, based on the commonly used management tool of a risk register, to highlight natural assets whose condition places benefits at risk.

We undertake a preliminary assessment using a risk register for natural capital assets in the UK based solely on existing information. The status and trends of natural capital assets are assessed using asset–benefit relationships for ten kinds of benefits (food, fibre (timber), energy, aesthetics, freshwater (quality), recreation, clean air, wildlife, hazard protection and equable climate) across eight broad habitat types in the UK based on three dimensions of natural capital within each of the habitat types (quality, quantity and spatial configuration). We estimate the status and trends of benefits relative to societal targets using existing regulatory limits and policy commitments, and allocate scores of high, medium or low risk to asset–benefit relationships that are both subject to management and of concern.

The risk register approach reveals substantial gaps in knowledge about asset–benefit relationships which limit the scope and rigour of the assessment (especially for marine and urban habitats). Nevertheless, we find strong indications that certain assets (in freshwater, mountain, moors and heathland habitats) are at high risk in relation to their ability to sustain certain benefits (especially freshwater, wildlife and climate regulation).

Synthesis and applications. With directed data gathering, especially to monitor trends, improve metrics related to asset–benefit relationships, and improve understanding of nonlinearities and thresholds, the natural capital risk register could provide a useful tool. If updated regularly, it could direct monitoring efforts, focus research and protect and manage those natural assets where benefits are at highest risk.

Synthesis and applications. With directed data gathering, especially to monitor trends, improve metrics related to asset–benefit relationships, and improve understanding of nonlinearities and thresholds, the natural capital risk register could provide a useful tool. If updated regularly, it could direct monitoring efforts, focus research and protect and manage those natural assets where benefits are at highest risk.

No MeSH data available.