By Phil Scullion
Government officials have attempted to quantify the value of nature to the UK economy in an independent report out today.
The National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) estimates that nature is worth billions of pounds to the UK. This includes the health benefits of living in view of green space which are up to £300 per person per year.
The NEA will be used to direct future government policy including the forthcoming Natural Environment white paper.
Environment secretary Caroline Spelman said: "The natural world is vital to our existence, providing us with essentials such as food, water and clean air, but also other cultural and health benefits not always fully appreciated because we get them for free.
"The UK National Ecosystem Assessment is a vital step forward in our ability to understand the true value of nature and how to sustain the benefits it gives us."
According to the NEA the market value of resources such as timber, crops and fisheries is often focussed upon to the detriment of ecosystems and habitats.
Without a more collaborative approach taking into account these factors the NEA warns that the pressures of population growth and climate change could have a potentially devastating effect over the next 50 years.
Professor Bob Watson, chief scientist at Defra and co-chair of the UK NEA, said: "There is an urgent need to better manage our ecosystems and the natural resources they provide us with.
"The NEA shows that we need a more integrated approach to ecosystem management, involving government, the private sector, voluntary groups and the public working together to protect the services nature provides."