Lessons learnt from adopting natural capital approaches to support sustainable land management in Scotland
The emergence of natural capital approaches worldwide responds to the significant gap where nature has largely been excluded from economic decision-making. A natural capital approach aims to identify, measure and analyse the relative contribution of nature to human well-being. In Scotland, the concept of natural capital has been increasingly integrated into policy measures and guidelines. Consequently, several land-based organisations have trialled various natural capital approaches to support sustainable land management in Scotland and have reported their relevant experiences. However, there exists a research gap in the evaluation and synthesis of the lessons learnt from these various trials. Through a mixed-methods approach including document analysis and eight semi-structured interviews, this study sought the address this gap by assessing the motivations, benefits and challenges associated with adopting natural capital approaches in the relevant trials. These factors were then considered in the context of Scotland’s land use policy landscape. The findings summarised seven lessons learnt and demonstrated natural capital approaches to support decision-making by (1) providing a structured framework to reframe nature’s contribution to an organisation and wider society and (2) improving an organisations understanding of their natural capital assets in various ways. However, the progressive nature of the land-based organisations involved in this study limits the wider generalisations of the findings beyond the scope of this study. Nevertheless, the demand for natural capital thinking in Scotland provides confidence that support for the wider adoption of natural capital approaches in underway. As such, there is much scope for further research to contribute by providing an evidence base to support the claims made in this study.