The UK's online resource on analytical tools that link the environment and society
What is Tool Assessor?
Tool Assessor is part of the Ecosystems Knowledge Network website that provides information about tools that analyse the environment. The diverse benefits that the environment provides for people are often called ecosystem services. Across the UK, the networks of features that provide these benefits are often referred to as natural capital, natural assets, green infrastructure and green networks.
A wide range of tools for analysing ecosystem services, natural capital and green infrastructure have been developed in recent years in the UK and globally, and more are in development. Information about these tools and their functions is often hard to access, and it is not always easy to choose which tool to investigate further.
Tool Assessor is focused on tools that help public, private and third sector organisations in the UK to manage the environment as an asset that delivers benefits for society.
Tool Assessor was produced by the Ecosystems Knowledge Network to:
- help people understand what tools are available; and
- enable people developing and using these tools to share information about them.
How you can use Tool Assessor
- read profiles of analytical tools - there are currently 14 tool profiles, and the list will grow
- use the search function - identify tools that meet particular needs
- provide comments on tools if you have used them - help us grow our user community so people can learn from each other
What do we mean by ‘tool’?
A range of methods and guidance documents are labelled as ‘tools’ or ‘toolkits’. Many of these are very helpful in providing guidance for managing the connection between the environment and society - see some examples of method tools below. However, Tool Assessor focuses on systems that are capable of analysing information and producing an output that can inform decision-making. See our page of resources for assessing nature's value.
On 12th June 2019, a Tool for assessing the local air pollutant removal value of trees in the UK was launched with an Ecosystems Knowledge Network webinar. EKN will be pleased to profile this, and share a recording of the webinar in due course.
Resources and guidance
ENCA - Enabling a Natural Capital Approach
Defra’s Environment Analysis Unit has developed a new online resource that will make the evidence base on natural capital and environmental valuation more accessible to non-specialists. This supports commitments in the 25 Year Environment Plan to better incorporate natural capital and the value of its benefits into analysis across Government. Building on guidance material in HM Treasury Green Book, this resource draws together a very wide range of published valuation and natural capital evidence, guidance, tools and applications to support analysts and decision-makers to better value and account for natural capital in England. An initial version was launched in 2020 with further revisions expected in early 2021.
In addition to the tools included in Tool Assessor, there are other tools which provide help and guidance on how to go about managing your local environment. Examples are listed below.
- The National Ecosystem Approach Toolkit identifies ways that communicate nature's role in society as part of plan-making and decision-making.
- The Local Environment and Economic Development toolkit produced by Natural England.
- The Local Action Project, run by the West Country Rivers Trust with funding from Defra, produced an Urban Environmental Toolbox which provides evidence on the multiple benefits of different types of green and blue infrastructure.
- The Ecosystem Service Transfer Toolkit produced by Natural England. The toolkit is a literature review of the effect of land management on the provision of ecosystem services. It is in the form of an Excel spreadsheet which can be queried to find evidence of the effects of specific land management actions on ecosystem services. This page also features a series of evidence review fact sheets on managing ecosystem services, which are a synthesis of the literature review in the Toolkit.
Tool Assessor exists to encourage the use of tools by all types of organisation or group, whether a local wildlife or conservation group, community group, business or another organisation. Take part by providing comments on tools you're interested in, tools you have used and tools you have developed. To do so...
- Register as a member of the Network (its free)
- Log-in and go to the Tool Assessor; find the tool you have used, would like to use or helped develop; leave a comment at the bottom of that tool's webpage.
Tool Assessor Project development
A review of the initial 12 tools was funded by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee. The project was undertaken by the Ecosystems Knowledge Network. Dr Jessica Neumann kindly supported the Network team in reviewing the initial set of 12 tools included. The project report can be downloaded from the JNCC website. NERC funded an Innovation Internship (Alison Smith of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford) to revise entries in Tool Assessor in 2017 and raise awareness of tools with potential users (grant reference NE/P01254X/1).
Tool Assessor is a free service. We are seeking support from individuals and organisations for continued maintenance and development. If interested in this, please get in touch on email@example.com.
The Ecosystems Knowledge Network has reviewed tools that it has been made aware of, aiming to provide impartial summary information about them. Always check that a tool is suitable for its purpose before deploying it, and ensure that it is used by people with adequate skills and training. The Ecosystems Knowledge Network cannot accept any responsibility for how tools are used, or the decisions they are used to inform. If you believe any of the information presented requires amendment, or you are aware of a tool that could be included, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.
- I have developed a tool, can it be included? We’d be very pleased to consider it. Please get in touch!
- I have experience of using a tool, how can I share this? Please leave a comment on a tool webpage so that others can learn from your experience (you'll need to be signed in as a member of the Network to leave a comment). Alternatively, send us an email telling us how you’ve used the tool and whether it informed decision-making about the environment, on email@example.com