Ecosystem Services and Conservation

Stanford researchers are continually expanding our knowledge of the links between human well-being and healthy ecosystems. Woods advances these efforts by supporting interdisciplinary researchers as well as centers and programs like the Natural Capital Project (NatCap). This joint venture of the Stanford Woods Institute, The Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment develops new science and open-source software tools for quantifying nature’s values and assessing trade-offs associated with alternative land and water use choices. These tools help integrate conservation and human development into land and water use and investment decisions. NatCap's model engages leaders in key government agencies and corporations in the U.S. and abroad to ensure that information produced is immediately relevant for decisions. The project provides these decision-makers with cutting-edge research, a network of support, and practical approaches and tools to create solutions that benefit people and nature. Read on for highlights from the work researchers with NatCap and other Woods centers and programs are doing to help businesses, governments and other institutions make informed decisions about nature's contributions to a thriving economy and healthy society.


Milestone publication

In June 2015, researchers affiliated with NatCap published a collection of papers on “nature as capital.” The Special Feature of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences explored the state of the science—and the gaps that need to be filled—in order to incorporate natural capital and the ecosystem services it provides into decision-making. Woods worked with Natcap to assemble a panel of experts to discuss the feature’s findings at a forum in Washington, D.C. Read more.

Natural capital summit

In May 2015, NatCap and its partners in Sweden convened a landmark event—the Stockholm Summit on Natural Capital—to help accelerate efforts to integrate nature's value into decision-making. Leaders came from around the world to learn about innovative “use cases,” and to develop a shared action plan. Read more.

Coastal zone management

NatCap scientists developed new open source software that can calculate how coral, mangrove and seagrass habitats reduce risk to coastal and marine ecosystems. These tools were used to design the first integrated coastal zone management plan for the Caribbean country of Belize, and could help with similar efforts in other coastal regions. Read more.

Planning tools

NatCap developed a free, open-source software tool to help governments site infrastructure projects so that they minimize adverse impacts on ecosystem services and maximize benefits to people. The tool brings the Project’s total number of ecosystem models and tools to 20. Read more.

Biodiversity insights

An April 2014 study co-authored by Stanford-based researchers including Woods senior fellows Gretchen Daily, Bing Professor of Environmental Science; and Elizabeth Hadly, Paul S. and Billie Achilles Professor in Environmental Biology, found that farmland and forest remnants can be more valuable for biodiversity than previously assumed, challenging a long-accepted theory used to estimate extinction rates, predict ecological risk and make conservation policy. Read more.

Disease risks

By temporarily removing large mammals from an ecosystem, Stanford scientists including Woods Senior Fellow Rodolfo Dirzo, Bing Professor in Environmental Science, and postdoctoral researcher Dan Salkeld discovered that populations of disease-carrying rodents grew unchecked, increasing the risk of transmitting deadly pathogens to humans. Read more.

On Camera

Integrating Natural Capital Into Decisions

Leading academics and practitioners in the field of ecosystem services as well as experts from the public and non-profit sectors addressed core sustainability challenges of the 21st century at an event held to advance discussion of the June 2016 PNAS special feature on “Nature as Capital.” More …

Paul Ehrlich wins 2014 BBVA Foundation Award in Ecology

Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford Woods Institute senior fellow, discusses his work during an interview for the 2014 BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Ecology. More …

In The News

The Power of Green Space

Features research co-authored by Woods Senior Fellow Gretchen Daily (Biology) about how a walk in nature affects the brain
July 9, 2015 - By Phoebe Gavin,

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Putting a Price on Nature

Senior Fellow Gretchen Daily emphasizes that, in natural capital accounting, economics are just part of a complex balance sheet that also considers...
June 18, 2015 - By Anna Lieb , PBS NOVA Next

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Back From the Dead: Why De-Extinction May Save Humanity

Describes research by Woods Senior Fellow Rodolfo Dirzo on how "the well-being of natural ecosystems including the animals, actually represents...
July 25, 2014 - By John Roach, NBC News

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Increase Genetic Diversity to Save Tigers: Study

Quotes Rachael Bay, graduate student in biology and lead author of a study coauthored by Woods Senior Fellow Elizabeth Hadly that found increasing...
May 19, 2014 - By Rachna Singh, The Times of India

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