Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment Program

The UK Government has committed to leave the environment in a better state for future generations and reach net zero by 2050 while boosting the economy. We will achieve this through the Environment Act, the Agriculture and Fisheries Acts, new environmental land management schemes and biodiversity net gain, but this transformation in policymaking requires up-to-date evidence, that is accessible to a wide range of decision makers.

Natural Capital and Ecosystem Assessment (NCEA) is a science innovation and transformation program, which spans across land and water environments. It has been set up to collect data on the extent, condition and change over time of England’s ecosystems and natural capital, and the benefits to society.

This will underpin the immense value of managing our natural capital, transform the way we make decisions and policy and ensure we invest in environmental reforms that achieve maximum benefit. It will give us insights on the pressures our ecosystems face, covering:

  • air-quality
  • biodiversity
  • carbon storage
  • habitats
  • natural flood defenses
  • resilience


Across terrestrial and marine, NCEA aims to:

  • increase the spatial scale of some data (for example, species distribution, biodiversity)
  • provide reliable data to help account for carbon stocks within England’s soils, peatlands, trees, and marine habitats
  • assessment of ecosystems in inland and coastal waters, marine environment, and on land including soil ecosystems
  • draw together existing data streams, (including from UK Research and Innovation and UK Hydrographic Office)
  • provide tools (for example, datasets, indicators of environmental status, models) to understand how we impact nature both positively and negatively

Terrestrial and freshwater projects

These projects will provide:

  • data collection, capture, management, and analysis protocols for citizen science (research conducted by non-professional scientists)
  • monitoring for trees outside of woodlands, using remote sensing and citizen science (this data is important for tree planting, and natural capital and carbon accounting)
  • support for the environmental land management reforms by scoping and commissioning a combined mapping and remote sensing, citizen science and professional field survey approach
  • updated national habitats map for biodiversity and Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) policy
  • completed design and testing of small streams, lakes and wetlands monitoring schemes
  • production of the England peat map to inform restoration and carbon accounting
  • understanding of water, land and sea interface and system effects

marine projects

These projects will provide:

  • a joined-up approach across Defra marine-linked policy areas
  • a marine natural capital evidence baseline to guide investment and management decisions and the development of policies
  • natural capital best practice guidance and a suite of analytical tools to support more effective policy making for marine decision makers at all scales
  • a comprehensive monitoring program in the open water and seabed environments of English inshore and offshore waters
  • development of models and place-based tools that can integrate ecological, social and economic data sets together to test different scenarios for nature’s recovery
  • innovation in evidence collection by testing the potential for earth observation, autonomous vehicles, new modeling techniques and collaboration with non-governmental organizations
  • an evaluation system for the shared marine space, providing value for marine planning
  • a user-friendly database for natural capital evidence
  • advice in the management of UK marine environments
  • new ways to combine resources, including match funding, for projects both nationally and locally

Working with us

The NCEA program is a partnership program managed by Defra, with contributions from:

  • Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas)
  • Environment Agency
  • Forest Research
  • NaturalEngland
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee
  • Marine Management Organization
  • Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  • UK Center for Ecology and Hydrology

Equally fundamental to our success, is how we work with other partners from research and non-governmental organization communities. This could include, for example, sharing techniques on measuring location, condition and trend and what this might mean for NCEA monitoring. It is this strategic approach to partnership which will advance the NCEA program in terms of research and development.

Get in touch with us if you want to work with us.

Leave a Comment