An Introduction to the Natural Capital Approach


Stanford School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences



People depend on nature to sustain and fulfill human life, yet the values of nature are typically ignored in decisions. Mapping and modeling ecosystem services can help highlight the diverse benefits provided to people by nature (what and where) and explore how those benefits might change under different management options--thus bringing information about nature's values into decisions in practical ways. With these approaches, we can improve the state of biodiversity and human well-being by motivating greater and more cost-effective investments in both.

This course introduces the Natural Capital Project's (NatCap's) approach to using ecosystem service information to inform decisions. It uses specific examples to illustrate how the approach has worked in each case and highlights key methods and tools used in implementation.



There are no prerequisites for this course. However, we recommend that you download InVEST and GIS software (either QGIS or ArcGIS). You do not need to have a background in GIS to learn the NatCap Approach, but knowing how to use GIS software is crucial for preparing spatial inputs to the InVEST models, viewing and understanding model output, and post-processing the output to provide meaningful results. Running the InVEST models themselves does not require a GIS; all of the tools are independent applications. InVEST is built to run in a Windows and Mac environment. This MOOC is built off a previous version, NCP101: An Introduction to the Natural Capital Approach that was offered from January 2016 to July 2019, authored by Gregg Verutes, Adrian Vogl, and Henry Borrebach.


Free. Add a verified Certificate for $50 USD

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