Natural Environment Valuation Online (NEVO): Web-based tools for natural capital management and investment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Politics

Abstract

While many businesses and public sector organisations understand that natural capital is an important direct and indirect source of socio-economic prosperity, quality of life, and well-being, they frequently lack the capacity to quantify those benefits in either physical or economic terms. Such capacity exists in the often sophisticated models developed by natural and economic scientists, but the power of such models to estimate the benefits of maintaining or enhancing natural capital stocks has generally been unavailable outside the academic community. Since evidence of the size of such benefits may be fundamental for informing decision making2 and shaping policy design, developing tools that support better accounting and valuation of natural capital has been identified as a key requirement in bringing the environment into to the heart of public and private sector decision making. The central objective of this proposal is to create such tools.
In particular, we will develop a web-based application that allows government, businesses, and the public to access the power of NERC-funded natural capital models through an easy-to-use map-based interface. This interface, the Natural Environment Valuation Online tool (NEVO), will allow users to explore and visualise the consequences of changes in natural capital management on flows of ecosystem services in the UK. In the first instance, NEVO will focus on quantifying and valuing carbon stored and absorbed by the natural environment and recreational uses associated with natural and semi-natural environments. Most importantly, NEVO will allow users to query the underpinning natural capital models in order to answer questions of their own design. To better understand the exact nature of those questions and so inform the development of NEVO, we will work closely with a number of partner organisations each of whom is engaged in the management and promotion of natural capital:
1. The Environment Analysis Unit at Defra, whose core interests include the development of tools to support the emerging 25 Year Plan for the Environment.
2. The Forestry Commission (FC), responsible for forestry in the UK, including administration of the Woodland Carbon Code, a voluntary code providing consistency, clarity and transparency in the accounting of woodland carbon projects.
3. Moor Trees, a charitable organisation dedicated to re-foresting Dartmoor with native trees and enabling people to re-engage with trees and natural environments.
4. Treeconomics, a social enterprise specialising in measuring and valuing the benefits of urban trees. Their mission is to raise awareness of the value of trees and woodlands as natural assets through engaging local people, businesses and public bodies in their projects.
5. GeoSmart Information Ltd, a data and services company that supports sustainable development together with a range of data products and innovative subscription services in areas of groundwater flood risk and sustainable drainage systems.
NEVO will be co-developed with this set of project partners ensuring their direct input in deciding upon the nature of the user interface, which variables users have control over in querying the model and how the outputs are visualised and recorded.
The project builds upon sophisticated models from NERC-funded natural and economic science including the National Ecosystem Assessment Follow On (NEA-FO) project and a Valuing Nature Network placement grant scoping user needs for natural capital tools. Moreover the project will build on the research team's experience delivering the Defra-funded proto-type Outdoor Recreation Valuation tool which has proved the feasibility of creating map-based web applications for natural capital valuation which are accessible to a broad audience (http://leep.exeter.ac.uk/ORVal).

Keywords: natural environment, valuation, carbon, recreation, tool, mapping, web-based,

Planned Impact

The project has been designed to deliver outcomes in the form of improved and informed decision-making for long term strategic and investments decisions. This will be achieved by translating NERC science and presenting it in an intuitive, easy-to-use, visual format to a variety of end-users. The anticipated outcomes of the project include:
1. Improving and promoting the voluntary offsetting sector by providing an accessible and intuitive means for evaluating and targeting potential tree-planting investments using FC approved, standardised and transparent methods of calculating greenhouse gas flows.
2. Identification and visualisation of the benefits of potential new investments. This will enhance the ability of businesses (Treeconomics) and charitable organisations (Moor Trees) to calculate and communicate the benefits of their work to their stakeholders.
3. Improved targeting and efficiency of investments, and the strengthening of relationships with individual landowners.
4. Assistance for users, including GeoSmart Information Ltd customers, in identifying suitable locations for implementing natural flood defences whilst also delivering co-benefits in terms of recreation and carbon storage and sequestration.
5. Showcasing practical examples of the power of data and tool development, as advocated in Defra's 25 Year Environment Plan and providing a platform for innovation and communication. .
6. Enabling organisations to assess deprivation in relation to access to green space at local and national levels, and use this to inform and target investment decisions. The index of multiple deprivation is used widely by national and local organisations including government to assess where people may benefit from services and to target investments in the most deprived areas.
We anticipate that development of NEVO will generate outcomes not only for our project partners, but also for a broad range of end-users through further dissemination of the tool. For example, we believe that the tools will provide informative input into and improve participatory and deliberative events to support the development of catchment management plans and Pioneer projects under the 25 Year Environment Plan, facilitated through LEEP's close links with Defra and relevant regional stakeholders.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description We are currently working with policy makers in Defra to explore options for the reform of the common agricultural policy post-Brexit and how these options can be represented and evaluated using the Natural Environment Valuation models and adaptations of the existing models. The results will be used to inform potential policy options and provide evidence to support the case for rural payments and their estimated benefit-cost ratios.
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description 105124 Tender for modelling tool
Amount £495,955 (GBP)
Funding ID BE0126 
Organisation Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (DEFRA) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2017 
End 03/2019
 
Description Sub-Award 017: NEVO South West Partnership for Environment and Economic Prosperity (SWEEP)
Amount £4,118,113 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/P011217/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 04/2019 
End 03/2021
 
Title Natural Environment Valuation Tool 
Description The first version of the Natural Environment Valuation (NEV) tool was developed as an offline integrated model. The tool provides an integrated platform for exploring ecosystem services flows and associated economic value delivered by the natural environment. The tool provides functionality for users to explore a range of ecosystem services, this grant funded initial development work on greenhouse gas sequestration from timber and recreation values related to land use. Following this proof of concept, additional funding has enabled the project team to substantially expand the remit of the tool to include food, timber, greenhouse gas sequestration, recreation, water quality, water quantity and biodiversity provided by the current composition of land use across England and Wales from 2020 out to the year 2060 based on mid-level projections of climate change from the IPCC (UKCIP09). The tool can be used at a variety of spatial scales including country, government office region, local authority, catchment and subcatchment, national parks, or the finest resolution which is a 2km grid cell level. Alter: Users are also able to use the tool to define scenarios which alter the current land use or prices. The tool predicts the response of land use and the flow of ecosystem services over time. Optimise: The tool also includes an optimisation functionality which allows users to specify an objective (e.g. maximise economic value from woodlands, or maximise quantity outcomes such as a biodiversity metric) and a policy mechanism e.g. replacing agricultural land with new woodlands. The tool then calculates the optimal spatial locations to achieve the objective and returns a breakdown of the locations and changes in ecosystem service flows. Users can select which outputs they would like to view and have the option to download outputs or store their session. The offline tool formed the basis for an online version, Natural Environment Valuation Online (NEVO) - recorded under software. 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - human 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact We are in the process of working with several collaborators, including original project partners and new collaborations, to develop case studies for the use of NEVO. We are in the initial stages of exploring how these partners can use the tool to enhance their work, this includes: - providing supplementary information/evidence and analysis - providing a tool for retrospective analysis of projects - supporting the development of funding mechanisms for projects - enhancing engagement with stakeholders by facilitating real time analysis of land use scenarios 
URL https://www.leep.exeter.ac.uk/nevo
 
Description CEMPS 
Organisation University of Exeter
Department College of Engineering, Mathematics & Physical Sciences
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The research team contacted members of faculty in the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences to explore opportunities for collaboration on the implementation of emulators to speed up model run times for the NEVO tool. Our initial discussions highlighted complementaries in our research agendas. The research team then worked with CEMPS to set up internship opportunities for CEMPS students. We are now looking for potential funding streams to facilitate further collaboration.
Collaborator Contribution Met to discuss research agendas and potential collaborations Assisted with recruitment of web-developers and PDRA specialising in model emulation Worked with the research team to set up internship opportunities for computing students looking for paid experience in web development
Impact Internships on a multi-disciplinary project Recruitment of specialist skills - model emulation
Start Year 2017
 
Description Case Study Collaboration: Environment Agency - Kay Lidgard 
Organisation Environment Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Collaboration on a case study using NEVO to explore the River Wey and ecosystem service flows (primarily biodiversity and recreation) associated with natural flood management projects. So far the project team have discussed case study ideas with the partner, provided tailored training and designed a case study application.
Collaborator Contribution Kay Lidgard at the Environment Agency is now exploring using the tool and completing a case study template, drafted by the research team.
Impact The collaboration is multi-disciplinary, bringing together economics, policy and natural science. Outputs to date: - tailored training - one to one meetings - co-design of case study
Start Year 2018
 
Description Case Study Collaboration: Environment Agency - Rachael Maskill 
Organisation Environment Agency
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Collaboration on a case study exploring the functionality of NEVO and considering the potential for applying the tool to enhance the assessment of natural flood management projects supported by the Environment Agency and potential projects going forward. So far the project team have discussed case study ideas with the Rachael in two virtual meetings. The project team provided tailored training on the use of NEVO, which facilitated the co-designed a case study application.
Collaborator Contribution Rachael is in the process of gathering data for the case study and exploring using the tool. She will then complete a case study template, drafted by the research team.
Impact The collaboration is multi-disciplinary, bringing together economics, policy and natural science. Outputs to date: - tailored training - one to one meetings - co-design of case study
Start Year 2018
 
Description Case Study Collaboration: Forestry Commission Josh Rook and Pat Snowdon 
Organisation Forestry Commission
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Collaboration on a case study using NEVO to explore tree planting opportunities and optimal locations across England and Wales. So far the project team have discussed case study ideas with the partner, provided tailored training and designed a case study application.
Collaborator Contribution Josh Rook at the Forestry Commission is now exploring using the tool and completing a case study template, drafted by the research team.
Impact The collaboration is multi-disciplinary, bringing together economics, policy and natural science. Outputs to date: - tailored training - one to one meetings - attendance at workshops - co-design of the NEVO tool - collaboration on a woodland carbon code functionality for NEVO - co-design of case study
Start Year 2017
 
Description Case Study Collaboration: Oxford Corridor Alison Smith 
Organisation University of Oxford
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Collaboration on a case study using NEVO to explore the Oxford corridor development plans for expanding urban areas. So far the project team have discussed case study ideas with the partner, provided tailored training and designed a case study application.
Collaborator Contribution Alison Smith at the University of Oxford is now exploring using the tool and completing a case study template, drafted by the research team.
Impact The collaboration is multi-disciplinary, bringing together economics, policy and natural science. Outputs to date: - tailored training - one to one meetings - co-design of case study
Start Year 2018
 
Description Case Study Collaboration: South Downs National Park - Adam Brown, Chris Fairbrother 
Organisation South Downs National Park
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution So far the project team have discussed case study ideas with the partner, provided tailored training on the relevant functionality of NEVO and co-designed a case study application. The research team have also set out a draft template for the case study based on discussions with the project partner.
Collaborator Contribution The partner has worked with us to co-design a case study using the NEVO tool at a national park scale with a view to complementing their first Local Plan. Adam Brown and Chris Fairbrother are now exploring using the tool, refining the case study focus and will complete a case study template, drafted by the research team.
Impact The collaboration is multi-disciplinary, bringing together economics, policy and natural science. Outputs to date: - tailored training - one to one meetings - co-design of case study
Start Year 2018
 
Description Case Study Collaboration: Treeconomics Dave Hansford 
Organisation Treeconomics Ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Collaboration on a case study using NEVO to explore ecosystem service flows from trees in peri-urban locations. So far the project team have discussed case study ideas with the partner, provided tailored training and designed a case study application. The case study is currently being refined.
Collaborator Contribution Dave Hansford at Treeconomics is now exploring using the tool and completing a case study template, drafted by the research team. Treeconomics are particulariky interested in the recreation values available through the tool and how these can complement the values for urban trees that they currently access through iTree - a valuation tool for urban trees.
Impact The collaboration is multi-disciplinary, bringing together economics, policy and natural science. Outputs to date: - tailored training - one to one meetings - co-design of case study
Start Year 2017
 
Description Defra 
Organisation Department For Environment, Food And Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have worked closely with Defra (members of the Economic Analysis Unit) to co-design the NEVO tool. This has included one-to-one meetings, training and group meetings. The project team have provided presentations on the development of the tool, which have facilitated discussion of user needs and shaped the direction of the project.
Collaborator Contribution Defra have attended meetings and workshops, provided detailed discussion and input to the co-development of the tool. They have also funded a project to extend the capabilities of NEVO and apply the underlying models to explore potential options for ELMs scheme design.
Impact The collaboration is multi-disciplinary, bringing together economics, policy and natural science. Outputs to date: - tailored training - one to one meetings - co-design of case studies - early stage / initial outputs from application of NEV models to ELMs scheme design - extension of NEVO model to include biodiversity, water quantity and water quality
Start Year 2017
 
Title Natural Environment Valuation Online (NEVO) tool V1.0 (soft release) 
Description The Natural Environment Valuation Online (NEV) tool provides a web-based integrated platform for exploring ecosystem services flows and associated economic value delivered by the natural environment. he tool provides functionality for users to explore a range of ecosystem services, this grant funded initial development work on greenhouse gas sequestration from timber and recreation values related to land use. Following this proof of concept, additional funding has enabled the project team to substantially expand the remit of the tool to include food, timber, greenhouse gas sequestration, recreation, water quality, water quantity and biodiversity provided by the current composition of land use across England and Wales from 2020 out to the year 2060 based on mid-level projections of climate change from the IPCC (UKCIP09). The tool can be used at a variety of spatial scales including country, government office region, local authority, catchment and subcatchment, national parks, or the finest resolution which is a 2km grid cell level. Alter: Users are also able to use the tool to define scenarios which alter the current land use or prices. The tool predicts the response of land use and the flow of ecosystem services over time. Optimise: The tool also includes an optimisation functionality which allows users to specify an objective (e.g. maximise economic value from woodlands, or maximise quantity outcomes such as a biodiversity metric) and a policy mechanism e.g. replacing agricultural land with new woodlands. The tool then calculates the optimal spatial locations to achieve the objective and returns a breakdown of the locations and changes in ecosystem service flows. Users can select which outputs they would like to view and have the option to download outputs or store their session. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact We are in the process of working with several collaborators, including original project partners and new collaborations, to develop case studies for the use of NEVO. We are in the initial stages of exploring how these partners can use the tool to enhance their work, this includes: - providing supplementary information/evidence and analysis - providing a tool for retrospective analysis of projects - supporting the development of funding mechanisms for projects - enhancing engagement with stakeholders by facilitating real time analysis of land use scenarios 
URL http://www.leep.exeter.ac.uk/nevo
 
Description Knowledge Exchange Platform 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We set up an email group and associated website based project area. Members of the steering group and community of practice could feed into decisions about the development of the NEVO tool. Information about the project, including monthly updates on progress were posted on the website and circulated by email. The network was also used to carry out surveys which fed into decisions about what types of models to include in the tool and what metrics were of interest to potential users.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://members.sweep.ac.uk/projects/natural-environment-valuation-online-tool-nevo/
 
Description Webinar 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact An online webinar to the wider group of potential users provided a walkthrough of the tool including the layout, functionalities and a discussion of the outputs and underlying research models. The webinar itself served multiple purposes including providing an initial reference guide for users, promoting the tool, communicating upcoming additions to the tool and encouraging questions and discussion with the potential user base.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Workshop 1: Codevelopment of NEVO 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was the first NEVO workshop and brought together a range of potential users to discuss their needs and potential uses of the tool. The research team provided a presentation of the underlying research activities and a walkthrough of a beta-version of the NEVO tool which included an agricultural model and a woodland carbon model. Attendees at the workshop were able to explore the tool, were given a series of example tasks to follow and provided verbal and written feedback both at the workshop and via email as part of ongoing engagement activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop 2: Codevelopment of NEVO 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was the second NEVO workshop and brought together a range of potential users to discuss their needs and potential uses of the tool. The research team provided a presentation of the research activities which had been undertaken since the first workshop and a walkthrough of the latest beta-version of the NEVO tool which now included an integrated approach to assessing ecosystem services and early examples of the alter functionality (using the tool to define land use change scenarios). Attendees at the workshop were able to explore the tool, work through examples and provide verbal and written feedback both at the workshop and via email as part of ongoing engagement activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018