An eye catching article on a recently published study suggests that "nature rich" sites could produce more net economic benefit through providing "ecosystem services" than through conventional farming. But what does this actually mean for a UK farmer looking at such opportunities? 

The Dasgupta review commissioned by the Treasury and published last month (see Dasgupta review blog by Simon Tilling) highlighted that there will need to be government regulation and intervention in the market to avoid further significant loss of biodiversity. The Woodland Carbon Code has been around for 10 years and the Environment Bill (currently making its way through the House of Commons) is a further step - introducing the concept of biodiversity net gain for new developments.  And there are high hopes that ELMs will pay farmers directly for some ecosystem services. But until a mechanism is found to force the wider market into properly valuing and paying for biodiversity and ecosystem services the opportunities for farmers may be limited. 

In the meantime we can expect further reports confirming that if society and the market put a proper value on carbon capture and biodiversity, alternatives to farming could be equally or even more profitable. But for farmers there are not yet many people actually writing them cheques for supplying such ecosystem services.