NaturEtrade creating a marketplace for ecosystem services

A LIFE+ project funded by the EU and the University of Oxford

latest news

Stakeholder workshop in Sighisoara, Romania

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on November 15th, 2018

Paul Orsi and Peter Long travelled to Sighisoara in the heart of Transylvania, Romania on 15th Nov to hold a workshop on NaturEtrade with a very diverse set of stakeholders including farmers, NGOs, academics, local authorities, government and international organisations.  We were particularly keen to come to Romania because of the prevalence of high nature value farmland, such as traditional oak pastures which have very high biodiversity and are used for extensive agriculture. We presented the Naturetrade system and received some very constructive feedback.  The meeting was also an opportunity to hear about WWF's rewilding work in Romania and the Interreg BIOGOV project.

Thanks to our hosts Fundatia ADEPT for making all the local arrangements for the workshop.  We managed to make a quick visit into the countryside after the meeting to the village of Viscri to see the fortified Saxon church, the cows coming home by themselves in the evening, and to try some craft beer.

Exploring land manager views of payments for ecosystem services

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on July 31st, 2018

In work closely related to NaturEtrade, involving Gillian Petrokofsky and Gabriel Hemery, the views of a range of land managers and woodland owners in England about the concept of payments for ecosystem services were explored. The work, led by [UK] Forest Research was an extension of British Woodlands Survey 2017 undertaken by Sylva Foundation in collaboration with OxLEL and the Woodland Trust.

The main findings were that many land managers were not familiar with the term ecosystem services or the concept of payments for ecosystem services. However, they did often recognise that their woodlands could provide a range of benefits to society. Quantifying forest services and benefits was thought to be particularly difficult in considering the design of any schemes that might provide payment for these services and benefits. Report citation:

Report citation: O’Brien, L. Ambrose-Oji, B. Hemery, G. Petrokofsky, G. Raum, S. 2018. Payments for ecosystem services, land manager networks and social learning.(pdf) Forest Research, Farnham.

Image:Forest research

NaturEtrade NFM: an exciting flood alleviation auction trial

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on July 27th, 2018

Farmers in the River Tone and River Parrett catchments within Somerset, UK can bid online for public money for works to help stop flooding in a new trial coordinated by the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest (FWAG), the Environment Agency, and Natural England.  The trial, which will run from July 23rd until Sunday, August 12th, is of an innovative new online auction tool for land management measures, called NaturEtrade NFM. Funding is available for six natural flood management measures. If the auction is successful, it will help to shape future support for sustainable farming and food production. It is designed to test a more flexible and farmer-driven approach to delivering outcomes of public benefit, such as cleaner water, more sustainable soils, increased biodiversity, and carbon storage.

NaturEtrade NFM is a simple online auction tool, on which farmers and land managers can bid for funding to deliver a selection of Natural Flood Management (NFM) measures. It will allow farmers to select locations on their farm where they would like to implement these measures, and will allow them to bid an amount it would cost for them to provide these measures.

The most competitive bids will receive funding from Somerset Rivers Authority. The initiative has built on developments and thinking in NaturEtrade, the LIFE+ funded project which has been running in OxLEL since 2012.

This post was adapted from the one published on OxLEL's News page.

Pagamento por serviços do ecossistema (PSE) - explorando novas fontes de rendimento

posted by Alistair Yeomans on July 9th, 2018

We held a very succesful stakeholder workshop at the Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Tapada da Ajuda near Lisbon.

We publicized the event in English and Portuguese and were rewarded with a diverse group of people interested in naturEtrade. Here is the Portuguese description of the workshop:

Este seminário demonstrará como uma plataforma web de deteção remota pode apresentar oportunidades para os proprietários receberem pagamentos pelos serviços do ecosistema nas suas terras, por exemplo: armazenamento de carbono, serviços de polinização e proteção do solo.

Este mercado em crescimento foi recentemente impulsionado no Reino Unido pelo Plano de 25 Anos do Governo para o Ambiente (2018). Este workshop tem como objetivo explorar como esta tecnologia pode ser usada para criar fontes de rendimento adicionais para os proprietários florestais em Portugal. As apresentações serão feitas em lingua inglesa.

Ecology across borders

posted by Alistair Yeomans on December 14th, 2017

Peter Long gave a presentation on NaturEtrade at 'Ecology across borders', the joint annual meeting of the British Ecological Society (BES), The Ecological Society of Germany, Austria and Switzerland (GfO), The Netherlands-Flanders Ecology Society (NECOV) and the European Ecological Federation (EEF).  The meeting was held in Ghent, Belgium 11th-14th Dec 2017.   His talk, to a packed room, was well received and there were some good questions.  This meeting provided the opportunity to meet a number of other groups developing models for ecosystem service provision, especially cultural services, and compare our approaches.

NaturEtrade goes (further) West

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on August 17th, 2017

Peter Long presented Naturetrade at the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGEO) Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) conference, held 14th-18th Aug 2017, in Boston, USA. This was important engagement with developers of the geospatial software libraries which power NaturEtrade.This conference is key to keeping abreast of new developments in the many software libraries which underpin the Naturetrade web-based tool.  Our end users (landowners and purchasers of ecosystem services) who interact with the Naturetrade website don't see the software stack, but their user experience requires some magic behind the scenes to perform environmental modelling and serve up data to users.   FOSS4G is the global meeting for the developers of all the technologies used in Naturetrade, and this was a chance to explore the cutting edge of new possibilities for environmental web services which have now been made possible by developments in software.  In turn, the developers are very interested to learn about environmental use-cases for their software, such as Naturetrade.   This was also an important opportunity for networking with people who have built successful businesses upon free and open spatial data and geospatial software, which has been helpful in planning for the afterlife of the Naturetrade LIFE project.  Travel was supported by NERC. 

NaturEtrade in Cambridge

posted by Alistair Yeomans on May 15th, 2017

Beccy Wilebore and Peter Long presented on NaturEtrade and exhibited LEFT at the 'Decision support tools in conservation' workshop on 15th May in Cambridge. A report of the meeting was published in the journal Research Ideas and Outcomes and can be accessed here.

Image:David Rose, whose blog of the event can be read here.

NaturEtrade at LIFE platform meeting on ecosystem services, Estonia

posted by Alistair Yeomans on May 10th, 2017

Peter Long was invited to give a plenary talk at the 'LIFE platform meeting on ecosystem services’, Tallinn, Estonia on 10th May 2017.  This was an opportunity to share our experience of developing a scalable web-based system for mapping ecosystem services with representatives from 50 other LIFE projects from across Europe.   There was also extensive discussion of how the degree to which LIFE project enhance ecosystem service provision could be monitored and evaluated.  A final highlight of the meeting was the LIFE networking drinks in a historic bar in Tallinn which served over 600 varieties of Estonian beer, but regrettably there wasn't time to sample them all.

Natural Capital of Street Trees

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on May 8th, 2017

NaturEtrade focusses on non-urban land, but there is clearly a need to apply similar thinking to urban land in pursuit of greater benefit from natural capital. With this in mind, Kathy Willis and Gillian Petrokofsky have written a short discussion piece on the topic of street trees as natural capital: the pros and cons. This was published in Science on 27 April. They concluded that City vegetation can also reduce pollution and improve human health. However, understanding the characteristics of particular species is critical, and planting the wrong species in the wrong places can cause unintended problems.


NaturEtrade goes West (all the way to Wales)

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on April 25th, 2017

Peter Long gave a presentation on NaturEtrade at the joint BES-BESS Ecosystem Services meeting,on 24th-25th April in Cardiff. The title of the meeting was 'Advances in Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services' and Peter's talk fitted well with themes on developments in novel  methodologies  in Earth Observation and in GIS-based  approaches, and the challenge of cultural ecosystem services. NaturEtrade's approach to both these issues was well received by participants in the meeting.

Image from BES website

NaturEtrade engagement with multinational businesses

posted by Alistair Yeomans on March 28th, 2017

Alistair Yeomans and Peter Long gave a talk and chaired a discussion at the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment Business Fellows’ Meeting on 28th Mar 2017 in Oxford. Representatives from Circularity Capital, Mars, PWC, SAB Miller, and Shell participated. This meeting gave a very helpful commercial perspective on possible uptake of Naturetrade by businesses.

NaturEtrade team relocate

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on March 3rd, 2017

The Oxford Long-Term Ecology lab has successfully relocated to the Department of Plant Sciences after the sudden closure of the Tinbergen building on Friday 10th February. We would like to thank Professor Liam Dolan, Dr. Roni McGowan along with all of the staff in Plant Sciences for their warm embrace and welcome into the Department. All of our work is now continuing as before.


We are now located in the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3RB, UK in rooms S204-6. Our contact details otherwise remain unchanged.

Considering ecosystem services in systematic conservation planning in Turkey

posted by Alistair Yeomans on February 23rd, 2017

Peter Long was invited to give a keynote talk on NaturRtrade and facilitate at SCP workshops for the Environment Ministry in Ankara, Turkey  22-23 Feb 2017.  This workshop was organized by EuropeAid project 134319/IH/SER/TR.  The government of Turkey is in the process of extending their network of protected areas such that they meet EU Natura 2000 criteria for representation of important biodiversity features.  In this project, initially piloted in Central Anatolia, a Systematic Conservation Planning (SCP) procedure is being used to design an optimal protected area network.  The government wishes to take account of ecosystem service provision in this process, which is why the Naturetrade project was approached to share our best practice and data on ecosystem services in Turkey, as well as advising on biodiversity and environmental modelling more generally.

Image: Natura 2000 Turkey

LEFT launches

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on October 7th, 2016

The launch took place at the Oxford Martin School on Friday 7 October. Attendees included land managers, environmental consultants, and parties involved with land-use decision-making in NGOs, alongside a number of academics. Kathy Willis gave an overview of LEFT, before Peter Long talked through the science underpinning the tool, and Paul Lindsell ran through the business model. Further discussion focused on how future developments of LEFT could contribute to environmental risk management in related sectors, such as human health and wellbeing, agriculture and insurance. While the focus was firmly on LEFT, members of the project team were able to talk about NaturEtrade, as a sister tool for ecosystem services assessments.

image: Oxford Martin School

Ecosystem Services conference Antwerp

posted by Alistair Yeomans on September 28th, 2016

Peter Long attended the LIFE and Ecosystem Services Conference 2016 ‘Helping Nature to Help Us’ in Antwerp, Belgium, 19th-23rd September. Peter gave a presentation on NaturEtrade as part of the session S10 ‘LIFE programme supporting societal benefits by restoring and improving ecosystem services – best practice’. His was one of fifteen talks in this session designed to share experiences of improving the mapping, monitoring, assessment and valuation of ecosystem services. 

The meeting generated a lot of discussion and will serve as a preparatory session for the LIFE platform meeting on Ecosystem Services scheduled for Spring 2017.

NaturEtrade Spring workshop

posted by Alistair Yeomans on April 25th, 2016

A successful workshop for the EU/University of Oxford-funded LIFE+ project NaturEtrade was held on April 22nd at the Sylva Foundation in Little Wittenham, Oxfordshire. Around 30 people attended from a range of organizations with an interest in natural capital, assessing ecosystem services and monitoring environmental change. The workshop covered the motivation for developing resource stewardship tools that combine ease of use with robust behind-the-scenes science to provide land managers with affordable, reliable ways of assessing the natural capital of their land. People at the workshop had the opportunity of trying out the NaturEtrade platform after walking round a particularly rich landscape in Little Wittenham that offered the opportunity of discussing water, pollination, land use, cultural and recreational uses of landscape, and soil erosion, all of which are features of NaturEtrade. The project is working with economists from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School who are helping think about how best to run the sort of auctions that will maximize the impact of NaturEtrade to land owners ‘selling’ ecosystem services and business ‘buying’ these services in a novel way that complements offsetting and current government environmental stewardship funding mechanisms. Inputs from those attending the workshop will be incorporated into developments and improvements in the tool and its promotion to stakeholders.

We are very grateful for the Knowledge Exchange Seed Funding that we received from the University of Oxford in support of this workshop.

Sensitivity of global terrestrial ecosystems to climate variability

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on February 17th, 2016

In work of key importance to the environmental tools developed in OxLEL, members of the NaturEtrade project group (Marc Macias-FauriaPeter LongDavid Benz and Kathy Willis) published a Nature letter on 17 February. They report a novel approach that provides empirical baseline measurements on a key component of ecosystem resilience, namely the relative response of vegetation in comparison to environmental perturbations over time, as well as the climatic drivers of change across landscapes globally.The study found ecologically sensitive regions with amplified responses to climate variability in the Arctic tundra, parts of the boreal forest belt, the tropical rainforest, alpine regions worldwide, steppe and prairie regions of central Asia and North and South America, the Caatinga deciduous forest in eastern South America, and eastern areas of Australia.>

Citation:A W R Seddon et al. Nature 1-4 (2016) doi:10.1038/nature16986 Image: reproduced courtesy of Nature

We get festive at the British Ecological Society Annual Meeting

posted by Alistair Yeomans on December 17th, 2015

Three members of the Oxford Long-term Ecology Lab presented papers at the British Ecological Society's annual meeting which was held 13th - 16th December in Edinburgh including Dr Peter Long who gave an oral presentation "NaturEtrade: creating a marketplace for ecosystem services". The session was well attended and the 20-minute presentation was supplemented by Q&A which extended into the break and afterwards to the bar. Interest was expressed in the underlying data used in the tool by academics working outside the UK, who saw its potential to assess ecological value of land. 

Kathy's Life Scientific

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on November 10th, 2015

Presenter Jim Al-Khalili's popular BBC Radio 4 The Life Scientific show featured Professor Kathy Willis. The interview was wide-ranging and covered Kathy’s academic career in biodiversity focussing on plants and their environments from the New Forest to the Galapagos Islands and all points between: “I’m determined to prove botany is not the ‘Cinderella of science”. She discussed the necessity of knowing the deep history of a landscape before taking policy decisions for its management, and the importance of developing land-use decision-making tools, such as the Local Ecological Footprint Tool (LEFT), to conserve land that is outside protected areas and NaturEtrade, for managed land in Europe. 

This interview follows Kathy's excellent 25-part series – Plants: From Roots to Riches – which first aired on BBC Radio 4 on Monday 21 July 2014. 

The series began by telling the story of how modern botany was born around 1759. It went on to examine how subsequent changes in scientific, economic and social preoccupations have influenced our attitudes to plants – from tools to exploit for food, fuel and industry, to objects of beauty, to being an essential global resource that must be conserved.

Every episode is available to download from the BBC website.

Image: BBC

Remote assessment of locally important ecological features across landscapes: how representative of reality?

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on August 12th, 2015

A recently published paper in Ecological Applications describes the local ecological footprinting tool (LEFT), which uses globally available databases, modelling, and algorithms to remotely assess locally important ecological features across landscapes based on five criteria: biodiversity (beta-diversity), vulnerability (threatened species), fragmentation, connectivity, and resilience. This approach can be applied to terrestrial landscapes at a 300-m resolution within a given target area. Input is minimal (latitude and longitude) and output is a computer-generated report and series of maps that both individually and synthetically depict the relative value of each ecological criteria. A key question for any such tool, however, is how representative is the remotely obtained output compared to what is on the ground. Here, we present the results from comparing remotely- vs. field-generated outputs from the LEFT tool on two distinct study areas for beta-diversity and distribution of threatened species (vulnerability), the two fields computed by LEFT for which such an approach is feasible. The comparison method consists of a multivariate measure of similarity between two fields based on discrete wavelet transforms, and reveals consistent agreement across a wide range of spatial scales. These results suggest that remote assessment tools such as LEFT hold great potential for determining key ecological features across landscapes and for being utilized in pre-planning biodiversity assessment tools.

The science and technology behind LEFT is key to development of NaturEtrade.


Reference: Willis KJ, Seddon AWR, Long PR et al. 2015. Remote assessment of locally important ecological features across landscapes: How representative of reality? Ecological Applications 25 (5):1290-1302. doi:

NaturEtrade at the Congress for Conservation Biology

posted by Alistair Yeomans on August 7th, 2015

Dr Peter Long attended the joint ICCB - 27th International Congress for Conservation Biology and the 4th European Congress for Conservation Biology this week in Montpelier, France. There, Peter gave a presentation and live demonstration of NaturEtrade to the c. 100 delegates who attended his session. The audience was made up of a range of ecology and conservation researchers, policy makers and field-based practitioners - many of whom have been added to our mailing list to receive future updates on the project.

Kathy Willis wins 2015 Michael Faraday Prize

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on July 20th, 2015

Kathy is only the fourth woman to have won the prestigious Faraday prize for expertise in communicating scientific ideas to a UK audience in lay terms. This skill is of immense value to NaturEtrade which is seeking to share complex, often controvertial, ideas with policy makers and land managers in a climate of uncertainty over reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the issue of valuing nature in Europe. 

A natural capital investment strategy for Surrey workshop

posted by Alistair Yeomans on March 6th, 2015

Two of our project members, Dr Gill Petrokofsky (University of Oxford) and Alistair Yeomans (Sylva Foundation), had the pleasure of attending a natural capital workshop organised by the Surrey Nature Partnership in Guildford this week. There, they were able to introduce NaturEtrade to the meeting attendees, and propose it as a tool that could be useful to County Councils and Wildlife Trusts when identifying potential payment for ecosystem services business models. There was plenty of interest in NaturEtrade, both as a trading tool but also for use as a monitoring instrument.

NaturEtrade at Natural Capital Workshop

posted by Alistair Yeomans on January 30th, 2015

This week Professor Kathy Willis introduced companies involved in the retail and food service to the concept of NaturEtrade in her presentation at the Valuing Nature meeting and workshop in London, convened by Coca Cola, WWF and the Smith School of Enterprise and Environment. There was great interest from the meeting attendees, who had the opportunity to discuss natural capital and how it relates to the food and retail service sectors, the business case for valuing natural capital and how natual capital can have implications across the value chain.

NaturEtrade Autumn workshop

posted by Alistair Yeomans on September 23rd, 2014

This first workshop was held on 22nd September 2014 for 9 external people representing business, wildlife trusts, local government, academic research and land management (including large estate management). The most important outcome of the meeting was great interest in the project and a commitment from all attendees to engage with us as we develop this tool. The feedback on developing the contract between the ecosystem service seller and buyer was particularly useful.

NaturEtrade at Eco**2

posted by Alistair Yeomans on September 11th, 2014

Professor Kathy Willis attended Eco**2: Application of ecological and economic ideas at the London School of Economics this week where she presented a keynote talk and discussion on the novel aspects of NaturEtrade and its potential use as an alternative to business-as-usual biodiversity conservation. The c. 200 delegates gave a positive reception to the concept of NaturEtrade.

NaturEtrade goes to Parliament

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on February 18th, 2014

Peter Long and Gillian Petrokofsky met with Barry Gardiner, MP, and members of the All-Party Group on Biodiversity to discuss environmental tools developed by OxLEL, inlcuding NaturEtrade and demonstrate the Local Ecological Footprint Tool (LEFT). The APPG on Biodiversity is an important networking group for us as we develop NaturEtrade, as it is a forum for informed discussion between cross-party parliamentarians, senior policy makers, industry leaders and a broad range of environmental organisations on all aspects and challenges relating to biodiversity in the UK and the overseas territories. We will formally join the group (subscription-based).

National Biodiversity Network Research workshop

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on January 20th, 2014

Peter Long gave a talk to some 30 academics at the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Research workshop on 20th January at the Natural History Museum in London. His main focus was LEFT (Local Ecological Footprinting Tool) but he introduced the aims of NaturEtrade as a sister project. There was a lot of interest in this use of big data for contemporary biodiversity problems.

Image:Diliff [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]

Nature in the Balance

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on January 16th, 2014

Three members of the NaturEtrade project group wrote a chapter in an important new book on the topic of valuing nature, edited by Dieter Helm and Cameron Hepburn of the University of Oxford. The chapter is entitled 'Identifying and mapping biodiversity: where can we damage?' by Kathy Willis, Marc Macias-Fauria, Alexandros Gasparatos, and Peter Long. It sets out a lot of thinking behind LEFT, and by extension, NaturEtrade.

The book was favourably reviewed in two separate articles in the Economist (1) Now not never, and (2) Valuing the long-beaked echidna

Image: Oxford University Press

Inside Government - a useful forum

posted by Gill Petrokofsky on November 12th, 2013

Peter Long presented OxLEL's Local Ecological Footprinting Tool (LEFT) and discussed the objectives of NaturEtrade to an audience of around 100 people from across academia, NGOs, policy and business at the Institute of Physics in London. Inside Government organises policy-led forums on a wide range of topics to ‘encourage debate and discussion between policy makers and front-line staff on the challenges and opportunities facing the public sector and those working with them.’ Peter was invited to present our environmental tools in this forum as an example of a best-practice tool that can make a contribution to the problem of biodiversity loss.  


image courtesy of London Sustainable Development Commission

NaturEtrade LIFE+ project launches in Copenhagen

posted by Alistair Yeomans on October 28th, 2013

This week the NaturEtrade project officially started with a kick off meeting at European Union offices in Copenhagen. The project is being led by the University of Oxford with the support of the Sylva Foundation.

Dr Peter Long (University of Oxford) and Alistair Yeomans (Sylva Foundation) attended the meeting, and gave a presentation on the scope of this EU match-funded project.

Background and aims:

This project will run for 5 years and aims to develop a web-based system that enables EU landowners to assess the provision of ecosystem services on their land, and then trade these services.

Main EU policies targeted:

The main EU policies that the work aims to help address are:

  • Reduction of loss of EU natural habitats (Directive 92/43/EEC)
  • Sustainable economic growth by maintaining ecosystems and their services (COM(2011)17)
  • Active involvement of EU citizens in biodiversity conservation (COM(2011)244 final)

This News item originally appeared on the Sylva Foundation blog on October 24 2013.

Successful LIFE+ project bid: “NaturEtrade: creating a marketplace for ecosystem services”

posted by Alistair Yeomans on July 4th, 2013

Oxford Biodiversity Institute has been successful in the LIFE+ 2012 call for proposals with a project, “NaturEtrade” that will explore the possibility of creating a marketplace for ecosystem services. The European Commission has approved funding for 248 new projects under the LIFE+ programme, the European Union’s environment fund. The projects cover actions in the fields of nature conservation, climate change, environmental policy and information and communication on environmental issues across all Member States. Overall, they represent a total investment of some EUR 556.4 million, of which the EU will provide EUR 281.4 million.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: “The LIFE+ programme continues to provide vital funding for innovative projects. These new projects will make a big contribution to protecting, conserving and enhancing Europe’s natural capital. They will support the goal of turning the EU into a resource efficient, greener and more competitive low-carbon economy.”

A key partner in NaturEtrade with the Biodiversity Institute will be the Sylva Foundation, which has an impressive track record of working with private woodland owners in Britain to improve the environmental, social, and economic values of British woodlands.

Details of NaturEtrade can be found on page 151 of the downloadable EU booklet describing all the successful Environment Policy & Governance projects (pdf).


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