“Our natural resources continue to be degraded because decision makers do not have a reliable way to assess the true value of the services that ecosystems provide. The Natural Capital Project, [http://www.naturalcapitalproject.org/ ] a partnership among WWF, The Nature Conservancy, University of Minnesota and Stanford University, is working to align economic forces with conservation by mainstreaming natural capital into decisions. Learn more [http://www.worldwildlife.org/science/naturalcapitalproject/index.html]”
Natural Capital Project
Aligning Economic Forces with Conservation
Capital has often been thought of narrowly as physical capital – the machines, tools, and equipment used in the production of other goods, but our wealth and well being also relies on natural capital. If we forget this, we risk degrading the services that natural ecosystems provide, which support our economies and sustain our lives. These services include purifying our water, regulating our climate, reducing flood risk, and pollinating our crops.
One reason why our natural resources continue to be degraded is that decision makers do not have a reliable way to assess the true value of the services that ecosystems provide. The Natural Capital Project, a partnership among WWF, The Nature Conservancy, University of Minnesota and Stanford University, is working to align economic forces with conservation by mainstreaming natural capital into decisions.
Developing tools that make it easy to incorporate natural capital into decisions
An essential element of the Natural Capital Project is developing tools that help decision makers protect biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Demonstrating the power of these tools in important, contrasting places
InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs) is a unique software tool that models and maps the delivery, distribution, and economic value of ecosystem services and biodiversity. InVEST helps decision-makers visualize the impacts of potential decisions and identify tradeoffs and compatibilities between environmental, economic, and social benefits.
InVEST is being used to integrate ecosystem services into decision-making in a variety of places around the world through the WWF network and partners:
In Sumatra, commercial logging and conversion to agriculture are risking the home of thousands of rare species, including tigers, orangutans, and rhinos. With support from the Natural Capital Project, WWF Indonesia is working with regional government authorities to map the distribution and economic value of ecosystem services in priority watersheds under current and proposed land use plans. The results will provide input to land-use planning.
Eastern Arc Mountains, Tanzania
Agricultural development, logging, and fires have reduced the forests of the Eastern Arc Mountains by 70% over the past decades, threatening thousands of rare species, people’s livelihoods, and water and power resources. The Natural Capital Project is currently working with over 40 collaborators in Tanzania, the UK, and South Africa to map and value the mountains’ many ecosystem services. WWF will use the maps to steer decisions and resources toward forest conservation and watershed management.
Albertine Rift (Uganda, Rwanda, & Democratic Republic of the Congo)
The Albertine Rift is a transboundary, biogeographic region containing rich forest ecosystems and a system of lakes and rivers that are critical for water provision and community livelihoods. Encroachment, illegal logging, pollution, and mining threaten biodiversity and livelihoods in this region. The Albertine Rift Conservation Society (ARCOS) hopes to use InVEST outputs to gain government and stakeholder support for biodiversity conservation and to disseminate lessons learned across the countries of this region. The phases for the project include: quantifying and valuing ecosystem services, assessing how amounts and values of services will change under future climate change and development scenarios, and creating incentives for conservation.
The Amazon Piedmont of Colombia is one of the most biologically outstanding areas of the Northern Andes, and also a landscape of great cultural significance as the ancestral home to several indigenous groups. This region is under threat from climate change and infrastructure development. Starting in 2010, the Natural Capital Project will collaborate with WWF Colombia to map the distribution and economic value of ecosystem services in the Mocoa Forest Reserve in the Amazon Piedmont. This project, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, will provide critical information for developing environmentally sensitive infrastructure projects, and for maintaining ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change.
The Natural Capital Project’s tools are also being used in a variety of other locations, including:
- Sierra Nevada Region, California, USA
- Upper Yangtze River Basin, China
- Hawaiian Islands, USA
- Northern Andes and Southern Central America