Nature as capital: Advancing and incorporating ecosystem services in United States federal policies and programs Public Deposited

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  • The concept of nature as capital is gaining visibility in policies and practices in both the public and private sectors. This change is due to an improved ability to assess and value ecosystem services, as well as to a growing recognition of the potential of an ecosystem services approach to make tradeoffs in decision making more transparent, inform efficient use of resources, enhance resilience and sustainability, and avoid unintended negative consequences of policy actions. Globally, governments, financial institutions, and corporations have begun to incorporate natural capital accounting in their policies and practices. In the United States, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and federal agencies are actively collaborating to develop and apply ecosystem services concepts to further national environmental and economic objectives. Numerous federal agencies have begun incorporating these concepts into land use planning, water resources management, and preparations for, and responses to, climate change. Going forward, well-defined policy direction will be necessary to institutionalize ecosystem services approaches in federal agencies, as well as to guide intersector and interdisciplinary collaborative research and development efforts. In addition, a new generation of decision support tools are needed to further the practical application of ecosystem services principles in policymaking and commercial activities. Improved performance metrics are needed, as are mechanisms to monitor the status of ecosystem services and assess the environmental and economic impacts of policies and programs. A greater national and international financial commitment to advancing ecosystem services and natural capital accounting would likely have broad, long-term economic and environmental benefits.
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  • Schaefer, M., Goldman, E., Bartuska, A. M., Sutton-Grier, A., & Lubchenco, J. (2015). Nature as capital: Advancing and incorporating ecosystem services in United States federal policies and programs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(24), 7383-7389. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1420500112
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