Environmental Benefits from Nature Tool

Enabling wider benefits for people and nature from habitat change 


Natural England released their new Environmental Benefits from Nature (EBN) tool as a Beta Version in July 2021. This was formerly known as the eco-metric.

Natural England is now actively looking for volunteers to take part in evaluation of the Beta version. Click here to become an Environmental Benefits from Nature Tool Case Study

Designed for voluntary decision-support, this innovative tool is the culmination of extensive development work and testing, and seeks to enable delivery of wider benefits to people and nature from habitat change. It has been developed by the University of Oxford with expert input from across Defra family and industry to support Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan commitment to expand net gain approaches to deliver wider benefits for people and nature from development.


Introduction to the new Environmental Benefits from Nature Tool

What it does

  • The Environmental Benefits from Nature (EBN) Tool provides a voluntary decision-support tool to help inform decision-making and improve the design and outcomes of development.
  • The tool indicates relative changes in ecosystem service provision to help ‘start a conversation’ and flag areas for more detailed consideration. It doesn’t replace or undermine existing legal or policy protections.
  • It represents a first step towards enabling better consideration of the losses and gains in ecosystem services[1] from development, to help deliver wider benefits for people and nature.

How it works with Biodiversity Net Gain

  • The EBN tool is designed to be used with Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) to plan for ecosystem service change.
  • It aims to enable users to design BNG enhancements to achieve wider environmental benefits for people and nature ­­- by indicating how BNG outcomes deliver changes across 18 different ecosystem services.
  • It is compatible with a biodiversity-led approach, based on the premise that biodiversity net gain is a primary driver for growing natural capital[2] ­ - healthy, diverse and resilient ecosystems are essential to underpin the delivery of a wide range of services and long-term benefits.

Why we are doing it

  • The EBN tool forms part of Natural England’s contribution to Defra’s work on Environmental Net Gain policy and supports government’s 25 Year Environment Plan commitment to expand net gain approaches to include wider Natural Capital benefits such as flood protection, recreation and improved water and air quality.

What are the outputs?

  • Table 1 shows a sample results table from application of the EBN e.g. for a housing development.  It shows losses and gains in ecosystem services as a result of habitat change arising from development or land use change at 1, 10 and 30 year periods. Arrows show relative changes compared to baseline, with diagonal arrows showing small changes.

Table 1. Main Display

 

 What can it be used for

  • EBN is an exploratory scoping tool that covers a wide range of different ecosystem services. 
  • Importantly, the EBN tool doesn’t replace or undermine existing legal or policy protections e.g. for irreplaceable habitats, protected sites and species and it doesn’t replace need for detailed assessments such as for air quality, flood regulation, landscape and visual impact assessment (e.g. as part of an EIA where required), but could inform these assessments.  

How has it been tested

  • The approach has been tested with industry across 30 pilots over its development period.  It has been applied in local plans, new development such as garden towns and other land use change scenarios, working with housing developers; local planning authorities; water companies; land managers: transport and energy projects.  
  • Findings from these pilots show that the tool was useful in decision making and gave an indication of the wider benefits from biodiversity net gain, with developments or land use change that result in biodiversity net gain often also delivering gains in a range of other ecosystem services.

Further information

The Beta version of the tool is available here.

 Contact

Any queries relating to the tool should be sent to: EBN@naturalengland.org.uk

 

[1] Ecosystems Services - The components of nature that are directly and indirectly enjoyed, consumed, or used in order to maintain or enhance human well-being. 

 [2] The elements of nature that directly or indirectly produce value for people, including ecosystems, species, freshwater, land, minerals, air and oceans, as well as natural processes and functions. (Natural Capital Committee)