In recognition of the globally important COP 26 conference currently taking place, the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership has, together with partners, published a vitally important environmental reference point for the region:
Councillor Dan Fitzhenry, Chair of the Solent LEP Net Zero Commission and Leader of Southampton City Council, said:
"Managing natural capital - our rivers, soil and woodland - is key to ensuring the natural environment is protected. The Solent's unrivalled natural assets are hugely boosted by the stunning New Forest, a unique landscape which is home to a diverse range of species.
"We are working with a wide range of partners, including New Forest District Council and the New Forest National Park Authority, to quantify and thoroughly understand the area's natural capital and its critical role in creating benefits to our communities, such as flood risk reduction, clean water, clean air, physical and mental wellbeing, alongside a thriving wildlife."
Alison Barnes, Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park Authority, said:
"Nature is vital to our survival and holds many of the solutions to tackling the climate crisis. We’re committed to ensuring the National Park is ‘net zero with nature’ by 2050 and this report gives a better understanding of the role that the New Forest’s unique biodiversity, ecosystems, and water and marine resources currently play and their future potential as natural solutions for helping us tackle climate change. It quantifies the natural capital assets for the whole New Forest National Park area, also looking in depth at three key sites: Associated British Ports’ waterside landholdings; the Barker Mill Estate; and the Cadland Estate."
The report plays a key part in the Solent LEP's continuing commitment to Net Zero and support for new approaches to climate change adaptation and mitigation, including the protection of biodiversity, ecosystems, and water and marine resources.
Councillor Edward Heron, New Forest District Council Leader and Solent LEP Board member, said:
“I welcome this environmental focus and the recognition of the natural capital of the New Forest. This work will support our declaration of a climate and nature emergency and strengthen the shared ambitions across the area of protecting the natural environment.”
Natural capital is used to describe parts of the natural environment (species, habitats, communities, landscapes, soils, water, air) that support the essential ecosystem, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration and carbon storage, waterflow regulation, soil erosion protection, pollination and important areas for biodiversity.
The Natural Capital Assessment of the New Forest links closely to the LEP's developing 10 Point Plan for Building Back Greener in the Solent.