Natural capital and ecosystem services:  What are they and how are they important to me?

20 April 2023

Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital are different but closely related concepts.

Ecosystem Services refers to the benefits that humans derive from natural ecosystems. They are the direct and indirect contributions that ecosystems make to human well-being.  These benefits can be divided into four categories: 
- provisioning services (e.g., food, water, timber)
- regulating services (e.g., climate regulation, pollination)
- cultural services (e.g., recreation, spiritual value)
- supporting services (e.g., nutrient cycling, soil formation)

Natural capital refers to the stock of natural resources and assets that provide these ecosystem services. It includes all the living and non-living components of an ecosystem, such as plants, animals, minerals, and water resources. Natural capital can be thought of as the foundation or conditions which give rise to ecosystem services.

In summary, ecosystem services are the benefits that humans receive from natural ecosystems, while natural capital is the stock of natural resources and assets that provide these benefits. Understanding the relationship between ecosystem services and natural capital is important for sustainable development and effective management of natural resources.

'By considering the many benefits that your land provides, you can ensure that your natural capital remains healthy and productive for generations to come'

Ed Asseily, CEO

Understanding your natural capital and its potential can help you make informed decisions about how best to use and protect your land.  By considering the many benefits that your land provides, you can ensure that your natural capital remains healthy and productive for generations to come:

  • Soil fertility: Your land's soil is a critical component of natural capital, as it provides the foundation for plant growth and crop production. Soil fertility can be maintained through practices like crop rotation, composting, and avoiding the use of harmful chemicals.


  • Water resources: The water on your land, including rivers, lakes, and groundwater, is also part of your natural capital. These resources provide drinking water, irrigation for crops, and habitat for fish and wildlife. For example, your land might include a wetland that acts as a natural water filter, purifying water before it flows into nearby streams and rivers, an ecosystem service that benefits both you and your community.  It is important to protect and conserve these resources through measures such as watershed management and proper irrigation practices.


  • Biodiversity: The variety of plants and animals on your land is a form of natural capital. Biodiversity is important because it helps ecosystems function properly, such as pollination and natural pest control, and provides valuable resources, such as food and medicine. You can promote biodiversity on your land by protecting natural areas, planting native vegetation, and minimizing habitat destruction.


  • Timber and other forest products: If you have forested land, the trees are also part of your natural capital and can provide ecosystem services such as timber, and other forest products. It is important to manage your forested land sustainably to ensure the long-term health and productivity of the ecosystem.


  • Carbon sequestration: Trees and other plants on your land can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their biomass and soil. This is a valuable service that helps mitigate climate change. By managing your land in a way that promotes healthy forests and other vegetation, you can enable this important ecosystem service.


  • Recreational opportunities: Your land might offer opportunities for hunting, fishing, hiking, or other outdoor activities. These recreational opportunities are a form of ecosystem service that can benefit both you and your community. By managing your land in a way that supports these activities, you can enhance the value of your natural capital.


Overall, recognising the different aspects of natural capital on your land can help you to manage your property in a way that promotes long-term sustainability and benefits both your bottom line and the environment.

To discover the different ecosystem services your land provides and develop a plan to manage it sustainably to ensure that your land remains a healthy and productive asset for generations to come – contact us:

Written by
Ed Asseily
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