Irwell Management Catchment: Natural Capital Account and Ecosystem Services Opportunities Mapping

Natural Course launched the outputs from its Natural Capital Account and Ecosystem Services and Opportunity Mapping Study for the Irwell Management Catchment at a dissemination and training workshop held on 23rd April in Manchester.[1]

The report provides compelling evidence that the natural environment of the Irwell Management Catchment provides significant and sustained value to society. Highlighting the continuing need to reverse historic environmental decline, create a more inclusive society and prepare for new development and climate change, the report also shows where investment will enhance the ecosystem services provided and increase its natural capital.

Key headlines from the report include:


  • The natural environment alongside the waterbodies has an existing natural capital value of £418 million per year. The study area makes up 12% of the Irwell Management Catchment and therefore the value of the natural environment throughout the whole Irwell Management Catchment will be higher.


  • The natural capital value arises from ecosystem services which flow to society. Values of £105 per annum/per head arise from the combined physical and mental health benefits associated with use and enjoyment of waterbodies and associated greenspaces.


  • The study area also provides ecosystem services with significant values in water quality, water resources, amenity, flood risk mitigation and carbon sequestration. There are tangible natural capital values associated with agriculture (food production) and timber production in the study area, however these will be much higher across the Irwell Management Catchment as a whole.


During the workshop delegates were given the opportunity to have their first look at the Ecosystem Services opportunity maps which identify the opportunities for improved ecosystem services.

Hosted by MappingGM, these maps provide an overview where interventions would be most likely enhance the ecosystem services and in turn, increase the natural capital value.

Opportunity maps are included for:

  • Water quality;
  • Flood risk mitigation;
  • Leisure and recreation;
  • Amenity;
  • Biodiversity and ecological networks;
  • Carbon sequestration; and
  • Air quality.

Feedback about the tool included:

 “We will use the tool to improve our evidence base, particularly in areas of flood risk. It will be really useful to use these maps to make our case stronger for using the natural environment to improve healthy lifestyles.”

“a fantastic tool that will help us identify multi-benefit projects and the partners required to carry it through.”

“We don’t just want to be delivering quick wins, we want something to last and this will really help us prioritise the opportunities available and maximise the benefits”


Natural Course will continue to support the Irwell Management Catchment Partnership and other stakeholders in the identification and development of projects for the protection and improvement of waterbodies. Further support will be provided to a number of pilot projects looking to embed a natural capital approach as part of their development to identify multiple benefits, multiple beneficiaries and new sources of funding.

If you would like to find out more about the ESS Opportunity Mapping assessment and Natural Capital Account for the Irwell Management Catchment or the Natural Capital approach in more general then contact Krista Patrick, Natural Capital Coordinator at the GMCA

[1] This report was prepared by TEP and Vivid Economics between September 2017 and March 2018, working to the Natural Course Project Steering Group, with stakeholder input provided through two workshops . Natural Course is an EU LIFE Integrated Project (LIFE IP Ref: LIFE17IPE/UK/027) aimed at integrated water management through accelerating the objectives of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) and improved flood risk management.