Natural Capital & Ecosystem Services



hello I'm Anne Garry I'm chief strategy officer and lead scientist at the natural capital project and today I'm going to give an introduction to the concepts of natural capital and ecosystem services ecosystem services and natural capital an introduction to the concepts natural capital and ecosystem services represent a blending of ecological and economic terms in economics capital refers to the stock of assets that can be used to produce goods and services that provide benefits to consumers capital assets come in many forms including manufactured capital things like buildings and machines human capital things like education and experience and natural capital clean water forests the explicit inclusion of natural capital as an important form of capital has occurred only fairly recently Pierce and Turner defined natural capital as the stock of assets provided by natural systems however we would expand the definition to be sure it includes the stock of assets provided by nature even in systems heavily modified by human activity for example soil is a form of natural capital that contributes to agricultural production even though agricultural systems are not entirely natural systems often various forms of capital are combined to produce a good or service farming combines natural capital soil with manufactured capital farm equipment and human capital farmer experience and know-how to produce crops so that's natural capital what our ecosystem services ecosystem services quite simply are the benefits people obtained from ecosystems this definition was provided by the millennium ecosystem assessment so the next trick is to put these two terms together the definition I gave before for capital is that it is the stock of assets that can be used to produce goods and services that provide benefits to consumers natural capital is the stock of assets that can be used sometimes together with other assets to produce ecosystem goods and services often short-handed to ecosystem services that provide benefits to consumers so ecosystem services are the benefits that flow from natural capital going back to the farming example various forms of capital combined to produce corn because natural capital played a key role we consider the production of corn to be an ecosystem service ecosystem services are everywhere they sustain and fulfill human life they come in the form of goods like food fiber fuel and clean water they come in the form of services like pollination of food crops and protection of people and property from coastal hazards and they come in the form of opportunities for recreation inspiration and education to give you a sense of the range of services that can be provided by one habitat take the case of mangroves some services they provide include climate and water regulation services protection from storms and support for Fisheries and Recreation through the provision of habitat for key species I'd like to close with some hints about the utility of these concepts in forming decisions take the mangroves we just talked about a decision to develop a stretch of coastline might involve the removal of mangroves before acting decision-makers can explore the consequences of such an action on a wide range of ecosystem services such as carbon storage and sequestration for climb regulation protection against coastal hazards food from fisheries and recreational opportunities these can all be measured in biophysical things like metric tonnes of carbon or area of flooding avoided and also economic metrics things like the social cost of carbon or avoided damages and ultimately changes in ecosystem services lead to changes in human well-being as measured by things like the number of people affected by flooding nutritional status livelihoods and income making that more general beyond mangroves the framework of natural capital and ecosystem services allows us to explore how actions might lead to environmental change how those changes can lead to changes in the delivery of services and ultimately to changes in human wellbeing in closing because it's always good to try out new terms in a sentence or two here or two to try human wellbeing depends on natural capital and the ecosystem services that flow from it in decision-making explicit consideration of natural capital and ecosystem services will improve outcomes for both people and nature you

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