Some leading conservation groups are aligning conservation with the economy in what they call natural capital. Nature provides valuable services including purifying our water, regulating our climate, reducing flood risk, and pollinating our crops. It sustains our lives and supports our economy. Thus, World Wildlife Fund writes, these services can be described as being natural capital.
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.
To help calculate natural capital, a unique software tool called InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs) models and maps the delivery, distribution, and economic value of ecosystem services and biodiversity.
Through this work, WWF calculates that an area such as the Sierra Nevada Region of California produces approximately $2.2 billion worth of commodities and services annually, by providing substantial water resources, agricultural and timber products, ranching, mining, tourism, and recreation. You’d hope this would keep the territory intact. But many threats to the region’s ecosystem exist, including dams and diversions and overfishing. By 2040, almost 20 percent of the Sierra’s current private forests and rangelands could be affected by projected development.
The Nature Conservancy has written about the impacts that climate change poses to California’s key economic sectors that rely on nature including ranching, skiing, salmon fishing and emerging carbon markets.
Hopefully by including natural capital in decision making, areas such as the Sierra Nevada Region can be saved from the projected destruction.