and important elements of natural capital fall between the cracks in U.S. legislation and policy—there is no mandate, for example, to monitor and maintain ecosystem services such as pollination, natural hazard regulation, pest regulation, or aesthetic values.

Just as the nation developed policy and legislative frameworks for environmental issues such as water and air quality and endangered species in response to growing scientific and public understanding of the importance of these issues, it may now be time to develop a policy and legislative framework for the more comprehensive management of natural capital and ecosystem services.

Key Questions

•  What would be the goal of a U.S. policy for natural capital and ecosystem services? (In considering this and the following questions, be sure to include regulating ecosystem services as aspects of natural capital that are essential for sustained flows of all relevant ecosystem services.)

•  How should a new U.S. policy or legislative framework integrate, replace, or be integrated into the many existing laws and policies that guide various aspects of ecosystem service management?

•  What would key elements of a U.S. policy (considering both actions that federal agencies could take within their existing mandates and needs for new legislation) consist of, particularly with respect to (a) assessment of the status of ecosystem services; (b) management; (c) monitoring; (d) accounting; and, (e) public communication and education? With respect to the assessment needs, no federal policy provides for assessment of ecosystem services or natural capital. How can this be done?

•  How can the effectiveness of policy for ecosystem services be measured? How can we improve policy based on iterative assessments of ecosystem services?


Carpenter S, Matson P, and Turner S. Draft. Natural capital, services and human well-being. In Sustainability Science.

Daily GC, Polasky S, Goldstein J, Kareiva PM, Mooney HA, Pejchar L, Ricketts TH, Salzman J, and Shallenberger R. Ecosystem services in decision making: time to deliver. Front Ecol Environ 2009;7(1): 21–28.

Heinz Center (The H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment). The state of the nation’s ecosystems. Island Press: Washington, D.C., 2008.

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