Internationally, new valuation methods for nature have arisen to address the biodiversity and environmental crises stemming from the undervaluation of nature in decision-making and governance. The UK has become a global leader in employing such new valuation methods, particularly natural capital and ecosystem services, through national regulations and guidance. However, employing national guidance on natural capital and ecosystem services faces numerous challenges in real-world implementation.
Ella's master's research explored the potential community (citizen) science to contribute to natural capital and ecosystem service assessments through increased community engagement and data collection, aligned with the UK's Enabling a Natural Capital Approach policy. To examine the feasibility of community science (CS) to act as an additional solution to the real-world obstacles of ecosystem service implementation, the research featured a systematic review of UK CS programs and a survey of UK community scientists.
The research found that current UK CS programs are associated with ecosystem services and natural capital, especially regarding biodiversity; however, there are key gaps related to cultural benefits and services from aquatic environments. Moreover, community scientists have experience with ecosystem services-related research, and they support community science as a supplementary approach for ecosystem services assessment, albeit with some considerations.
These results evince that CS is a worthwhile tool for involving communities in nature valuation methods, which may have broader applications in conservation and governance. Future research and pathways include further understanding community science as an ecosystem service itself and considering a community science application or survey which could act as a rapid assessment for ecosystem services to fill gaps not currently covered by UK community science.