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National Ecosystem Assessment

National Ecosystem Assessment

What is the National Ecosystem Assessment?

The UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UK NEA) is the first analysis of the UK’s natural environment in terms of the benefits it provides to society and continuing economic prosperity. It is based around the processes that link human societies and their well being with the environment and emphasises the role of ecosystems in providing services that bring well-being to people.


What is an ecosystem?

Ecosystems are dynamic complexes of plant, animal and microorganism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a unit.

What is an ecosystem service?

These are the products such as goods and services that come out of the ecosystem. These can be food, water purification, spritual experience. The combination of these goods and services contributes to human well being in terms of health, wealth and happiness.

Ecosystem valuation

An ecosystems approach is a way of considering and valuing natural resources in decision making.

  • See the Postnotes at the end of the page for more detail on ecosystems and how to value them.
  • You can read Ian Bateman's paper on the economic analysis of ecosystem services here


The UK National Ecosystem Assessment is an independent and peer reviewed assessment of the state and value of the UK's natural environment and the services it has provided over the past 60 years and what may drive change in the future.

What tools are available?

  • a conceptual framework, based on linking the drivers of change (direct and indirect) to changes in biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services, and human wellbeing. The conceptual framework can be used to assess how historical, as well as plausible future changes, in drivers affect the main broad habitats (ecosystems) in the UK and their role in providing ecosystem services that benefit people.

How will the outputs be used?

Policy makers

  • high level policy makers will have policy options outlined to secure the continued delivery of the UK's ecosystem services
  • policy makers will have the evidence base needed to strengthen decision making and ensure effective management in the future
  • the UK NEA will feed into the Environment White Paper.

UK NEA follow-on phase

In February 2012 a UK NEA follow-on phase was launched to run for a further two years. Funded by Defra, the Welsh Government, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the Natural Environment Research Council, the aim of the follow-on is to "further develop and communicate the evidence base of the UK NEA and make it relevant to decision and policy making at different spatial scales across the UK".

For more information on the follow-on phase and the research covered by the 10 integral work packages please visit the UK NEA website.


Total investment: First phase: £1.3 million

Start and end dates:  01/05/2009 to 02/06/2011 (first phase)

Follow-on phase 01/02/2012 to early 2014

Other organisations involved:

Countryside Council for Wales



To read more