The Valuing Nature Network brings together natural scientists and economists, alongside decision-makers in business and policy, who have an interest in valuing nature.

Background to valuing nature

What is ‘valuing nature?’

Valuing nature is a way of measuring the natural environment’s influence on human wellbeing, so this value can be used in decision-making. In everyday language, the word ‘value’ is often taken to mean the cost or price of an item. But in economics, value has a broader definition and means the level of wellbeing that an individual enjoys from a set of circumstances.

Why value nature?

We rely on the natural environment and the services it provides (such as clean water, fresh air and fertile soil), for our continued wellbeing and existence. However, people often treat the environment as a never-ending supply of free services, leading to over-use and abuse of nature’s services. The value of nature’s services to our wellbeing must be fully included in government and business decision-making to ensure sustainable development. Economic valuation is a way of ensuring this.

Another way of putting this is: 

  • Human wants (including those with the highest possible motivations such as improving society) exceed the resources available to satisfy them all
  • Therefore, every time we decide to do one thing, we are making a decision not to do another. We are implicitly placing values on each option.


Valuation is unavoidable; it is the essence of decision making. To pretend otherwise is irresponsible. It is better to be explicit about the valuations inherent in decision making and to seek to use the world’s limited resources in the best way possible by recognising the inevitable trade-offs which all decisions imply.

How to value nature

The environmental effects of alternative investments are measured in many different units, such as litres of water polluted/cleaned; tons of greenhouse gas emitted or number of visits made to the countryside. All of these things affect human wellbeing, but, because they are measured in different units, it’s hard to compare them to know where best to invest to protect the environment.

Economic valuation attempts to assess the value of environmental changes in the same units that other goods are assessed in: money. This allows policy makers to ensure the environment is properly included in decision making, rather than being treated as a free and unlimited resource.

'Policy-makers have a major role to play in realising the value of nature’s services whilst protecting the environment', says Professor Ian Bateman, Network Principal Investigator. 'The key question we need to ask is ‘could spending be re-directed to both boost the economy and improve environmental sustainability?’’

About the Valuing Nature Network

Valuing Nature Network mission

The Valuing Nature Network's mission is to support interdisciplinary partnerships to scope, develop and promote research capacity in the valuation of biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resources and facilitate the integration of such approaches in policy and practice in the public and private sectors.

New to the Network?

The main aspects of the Valuing Nature Network to be aware of are:

a) Network Members

The Valuing Nature Network hosts an active network of academics, policy-makers, non-governmental organisations and businesses from across the UK and internationally, who are interested in valuing nature.

The network is free to join - please join the network to receive updates on the research being carried out & to receive news on events and funding opportunities: Join the network.

You can read more about the Network members and get in touch with people you would like to collaborate with here: Network Members.

b) Network Research

Ten research projects have been funded so far and you can read about their progress on the Projects pages.

Valuing Nature Network Aims

The two main aims of the network are to

  • Articulate the challenge of valuing the contribution that the stock of natural capital and the flow of ecosystem services makes to human well-being, and developing meaningful methods of valuation.
  • Identify and develop the underpinning socio-ecological system knowledge that will enable robust monetary and non-monetary valuation to be achieved.


The challenges are being tackled by studies within two major themes:

1. Developing a trans-disciplinary framework for the valuation of stocks of natural capital and flows of ecosystem services.

Aims to bring together natural and social scientists to develop integrated methods for ecosystem valuation (both monetary and non-monetary) and to examine approaches for ensuring the sustainability of stocks of natural resources and the flow of ecosystem services from them. 

2. Characterising the socio-ecological system knowledge required to properly capture the value of biodiversity, ecosystem services and natural resources. 

Aims: To evaluate measurements of ecosystem change which recognise the poor knowledge base of some ecosystem processes and the uncertainty created by non-linear system dynamics, in relation to the valuation of both natural resource stocks and ecosystem service flow.

Glossary of terms

Whilst we have tried to avoid jargon in the Valuing Nature Network website, there are some terms that you may like to look up in the glosssary - you can download the glossary document below. This glossary was devised by Professor Dave Raffaelli and his team in 2009. The Valuing Nature Network project teams are currently defining terms related to their work and we hope to have an updated glossary in Autumn 2012.

Glossary-Valuing Nature-DaveRaffaelli-2009.doc140.5 KB
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Events colored in Green are internal Valuing Nature Network events.

Events colored in Blue are public ones.



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