The State of Natural Resources report 2016

Read the State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) 2020, published December 2020

A new approach...

This State of Natural Resources Report (SoNaRR) is the first of its kind in Wales.

The approach of SoNaRR is ground-breaking. The report sets out the state of Wales’ natural resources. It assesses the extent to which natural resources in Wales are being sustainably managed, and recommends a proactive approach to building resilience. And - for the first time – the report links the resilience of Welsh natural resources to the well-being of the people of Wales.

In this report we look at how pressures on Wales’ natural resources are resulting in risks and threats to long-term social, cultural, environmental and economic well-being, as set out in the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. We look at the key issues, as well as opportunities for integrated solutions that provide multiple benefits.

Throughout the report, we highlight where there are gaps in evidence. We also indicate our level of confidence in the evidence that we have used.

When natural resources flourish, society and the economy thrive as well. Natural resources and ecosystems can help us to reduce flooding, improve air quality and supply materials for construction. They also provide a home for a variety of wildlife, and give us iconic landscapes to enjoy, which also boosts the economy through tourism.

However, our natural resources are coming under increasing pressure – from climate change, a growing population and the need for energy production. Wales faces many challenges: securing low-carbon energy and fuel supply, creating jobs and income, tackling poverty and inequality, flooding and drought, and improving people's health.

Poorly managed natural resources and ecosystems increase the long-term risks to our well-being. Improving Wales’ management of natural resources means that we will be better able to tackle these challenges.

We all need to look after our natural resources and ecosystems so they can continue to provide us with the things we need. Any decisions we make can have a knock-on effect on the environment as a whole, now and for many generations to come.

Economic, social and cultural benefits...

Wales’ natural resources provide us with many economic, social and cultural benefits. For example:

  • £385 million from agriculture to the Welsh economy. This figure underpins the £6.1 billion annual turnover and £1.55 billion GVA attributed to the on-farm production and food manufacturing sector
  • 951 million litres of drinking water per day
  • 1.5 million tonnes of green timber a year, making construction easier and cheaper
  • £499.3 million from the forestry sector* to the Welsh economy (* covers forestry and logging, manufacture of wood and products of wood and cork, and manufacture of paper and paper products)
  • 14 million tonnes of aggregates per year, for construction and other uses
  • 8,919 gigawatt hours of energy from renewable sources, and rising, creating a renewable energy industry that employs 2,000 people
  • 410 million tonnes of carbon stored in soil to soak up emissions and protect against climate change
  • £2,870 million in tourism to Wales
  • 28% of adults meeting the recommended level of physical activity through outdoor pursuits
  • £18.2 million in health benefits to people from walking the Wales Coast Path
  • £840 million and 30,000 jobs from the historic environment sector

Summary SoNaRR report

Full report, glossary and annexes

Chapter 1:

Chapter 1 is the introductory chapter to SoNaRR, describing what the Environment (Wales) Act 2016 requires, the links with other legislation, what natural resources are and why they are important, what sustainable management of natural resources (SMNR) is, what NRW’s vision for SoNaRR is and the approach we took for the assessment of whether Wales is achieving SMNR.

Chapter 2:

Chapter 2 provides an overview of the social, economic, cultural and technological drivers of change to natural resources and ecosystems in Wales. It summarises the main pressures affecting changes to, and use of, ecosystems and natural resources. 

Chapter 3:

Chapter 3 sets out our assessment of the state of natural resources in Wales. We consider the extent, condition and trends of our natural resources and ecosystems at a Wales level. It also discusses integrated evidence around place – landscapes and assessing state at an area scale.

Chapter 4:

The information around the state of natural resources allows us to consider biophysical resilience in Chapter 4. The concept of resilience is explored and we draw together an assessment of the resilience of ecosystems in Wales based around the attributes of resilience set out in the Environment (Wales) Act.

Chapter 5:

Chapter 5 describes the various benefits we get from our natural resources and ecosystems. It builds up a picture of the benefits for well-being, where there is greater potential for enhancing these benefits and where there are deficits (negative impacts). By understanding the benefits and their contribution to well-being, we can then consider the future risks to those benefits. If there are issues with the resilience of ecosystems, then what does this mean for well-being?

Chapter 6:

Chapter 6 explores how Wales is currently using and managing its natural resources, and identifies some of the risks created by failures in the current management system. By focusing on areas of greatest risk and flagging where there could be potential for delivering enhanced benefits, we will help Welsh Government and other policy-makers to identify priorities for sustainable management.

Chapter 7:

Drawing on the evidence presented in the preceding chapters, Chapter 7 sets out a natural resources and well-being risk register for Wales. This starts to draw some conclusions on the potential consequences for well-being, if the resilience of our ecosystems and natural resources are put at risk. It then considers how we begin to identify opportunities for nature based solutions and how risks might be managed through spatial mapping techniques – to begin to identify integrated place-based solutions.

Chapter 8:

The final chapter summarises the evidence within the report, including our assessment of the extent to which sustainable management is being achieved, and our overall assessment of biodiversity. It draws conclusions from the report to highlight some of the high-level opportunities for maintaining and enhancing resilience of ecosystems and the benefits they provide.

We want to hear from you…

We want to hear from you if you have evidence on the state of natural resources in Wales, the resilience of ecosystems, or their contribution to well-being.

We also want to hear your ideas on how to improve our assessment and reporting process, which could assist us in developing future SoNaRRs.

  • How could you use the evidence in SoNaRR to help you achieve your goals/objectives?
  • How could you apply the approach to resilience and wellbeing to your particular area of interest? What do you need us to help you with?
  • How can we develop the approaches presented in SoNaRR (such as the natural resources and well-being Risk Register) to make it more helpful for you?
  • What can you offer that will help us to develop the next SoNaRR?

Please contact us at

The journey continues…

This is just the beginning of our SoNaRR journey to improving the management of natural resources. We cannot reverse long-term trends overnight. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Taking a joined up approach to the sustainable management of our natural resources will help us to tackle old problems in new ways. To find better solutions to the challenges we face – and create a more successful, healthy and resilient Wales, now and in the future.

Together, we can improve the state of Wales’ natural resources, and deliver even more benefits to the people of Wales.

We look forward to hearing from you. 

Erratum. Updates 12 October 2016:

  • The statistic in the summary document relating to the percentage of adults meeting the recommended level of physical activity through outdoor pursuits is 28% not 25% as previously stated. This has been rectified in the online version of the summary document
  • The statistics in Section 3.9 of Chapter 3 (woodland) in relation to ancient woodland have been updated to the correct figures. Changes relate to the “Extent” key message and Table 3.8

Erratum: Update 21 October 2016:

  • The statistic in Section 3.9 of Chapter 3 (woodland) in relation to the percentage of larch affected by Phytophthora ramorum has been updated to the correct figure. Changes relate to the third “Trend” key message

Text added for clarification 7 August 2017.

  • Agriculture and Forestry GVA bullet points on web page and summary
  • Forestry GVA : Chapter 1 page 14, Chapter 3 section 3.9, Chapter 5 page 13 and Annex to Chapter 3 page 87
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