Working closely with Defra to produce an easy to use online system for supporting and improving decisions regarding the use of, and investments in, the natural environment.
Acting on advice from their Natural Capital Committee, Defra’s new 25 Year Environment Plan will address the urgent need to stem the ongoing decline in the country’s natural capital. It aims to reverse natural capital decline, improve resource resilience and increase economic prosperity and wellbeing.
NEVO will be created by extending existing models developed by the University of Exeter, that recognise the characteristics of the environment, and how alternative uses cause multiple benefits, effects and trade-offs. It will work across multiple land uses such as agriculture, livestock, woodlands and urban areas, and consider hypothetical changes in a wide range of natural capital services (eg food production, water quality and quantity, greenhouse gas storage, recreation, biodiversity). NEVO will be developed and tested using a number of case studies in the South West Ultimately NEVO will support informed, transparent and efficient environmental decision making for a broad range of sectors, including valuing existing and new land use options, helping prioritise environmental interventions and investments and signposting those options that provide the greatest net benefits and value for money for the taxpayer.
The development of this new Natural Environment Valuation Online tool – NEVO – will directly support Defra’s future strategy by providing a tool to properly value the environment.
The NEVO Tool is a web application to help users explore, quantify and make predictions about the benefits that are derived from existing and altered land use across England and Wales. The tool is freely available to anyone and is designed to be easy to use, making it accessible to a wide range of users.
Try NEVO for yourself at: www.leep.exeter.ac.uk/nevo
The tool brings together spatially explicit data, natural science and economic models to provide insights into the integrated relationships between climate change, land use change, ecosystem service flows and economic values. Users are able to view information relating to a range of ecosystem services:
- Agricultural production
- Woodlands and timber production
- Greenhouse gas emissions
- Water quantity
- Water quality
The tool allows users to choose the spatial scale that they are interested in. This ranges from 2km grid cell level, through administrative scales such as local authorities and government office regions (GORs) and terrain based scales such as river network sub-basins, up to country scale (England and Wales).
The tool contains three types of functionality: Explore, Alter and Optimise.
The Alter mode in NEVO allows users to consider ‘what if?’ questions.
Once users have selected an area (by clicking on it in the map) they are able to consider how the flow of ecosystem services would change if they were to alter the land use or agricultural prices in the area.
Clicking on the Alter button opens a menu of options for specifying alterations and choosing the models that they are interested in running.
Clicking ‘Run’ submits the request, results are automatically returned to the user in the details panel.
The optimise model in NEVO allows users to consider ‘what’s best?’ questions relating to finding the best locations to change land use in order to achieve a particular objective.
Users can specify the type of land use change (from what, to what) and the total amount of hectares to be changed, as well as the overall objective, which can be to maximise particular quantity outputs (eg biodiversity richness) or value outputs (eg timber and agricultural profits). Clicking ‘Run’ submits the request, results are automatically returned to the user in the details panel.
NEVO returns information on the changes in ecosystem service flows and values from the Alter or Optimise inputs specified by the user. Like with the Explore mode, users can view changes in average annual flows or changes in annuity values.
Ben Balmford is a PhD student at the University of Exeter, funded jointly by South West Water and the University of Exeter Business School; funding which was unlocked by NERC’s SWEEP programme. His research looks at how to design mechanisms which pay individuals to make changes for a particular environmental outcome.
Ian is Professor of Environmental Economics at the University of Exeter Business School. As the SWEEP Director, Ian is responsible for ensuring that the Partnership delivers major real-world improvements in the economy, communities and natural environment of the region. This is achieved through the variety of projects which SWEEP undertakes.
Greg is an environmental economist specialising in payments for ecosystem services, individual decision making, non-market valuation, and experimental and behavioural economics. He has worked on Defra funded projects investigating paying for environmental goods and services; including the Fowey River Improvement Auction and scoping the potential for auctions within the new Countryside Stewardship scheme, and is now working on the SWEEP Natural Environment Valuation Online (NEVO) tool.