Core Benefits Definitions

These 21 definitions standardize the ecosystem services & real asset benefits and unifies the language across the different frameworks. This standardization facilitates natural capital investment as part of the BASIN Protocol.

Raw Materials

Raw materials encompass a diverse range of provisioning services that offer essential contributions to human society and various industries. These materials include but are not limited to fibers, timber, fuelwood, charcoal, fodder, and minerals. They also extend to cultivated and wild biomass for energy, nutritional, and material purposes, as well as water resources. Sub-categories involve the ecosystem contributions to the growth of cultivated plants, grazed biomass, and livestock for uses like food, fiber, and energy production. Aquatic resources are also integral, whether cultivated or naturally occurring, and serve multiple roles from providing food to material extraction and energy production. Measurement metrics often include economic value calculations, categorized in terms of amount, type, and source, among other qualitative and quantitative metrics. Overall, raw materials serve as an essential flow from Real Assets, contributing to diverse human needs and various industries.


Food Provisioning encompasses the production and cultivation of a wide range of edibles, from crops, fish, game, and fruits to specialized categories like Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). This service category extends to both terrestrial and aquatic environments, covering wild, managed, and domesticated organisms. Applications include not just nutritional consumption but also material and energy uses, featuring products like beef, poultry, dairy, and feed for domesticated animals or aquaculture. Valuation methods vary from Avoided Cost and Market Price to more specialized estimates that consider factors like crop yield and nutrient value. Metrics used for assessment include cost avoidance value, $/ha/yr, and specific type and amount metrics for the organisms and materials involved. Whether sourced from real assets or biomass provisioning services, food provisioning plays a multifaceted role in human society and various industries, measured and valued through a range of qualitative and quantitative metrics. Overall, food serves as an essential flow from Real Assets, contributing to diverse human needs but also the needs of other living beings.


Energy, predominantly a Provisioning service, encompasses a multi-faceted role in providing fuel, fiber, fertilizer, and minerals. This spans from the production of biomass-based fuels like biofuel crops, animal waste, fuelwood, and agricultural residue pellets, to energy harvested from renewable sources such as offshore wind, reservoir hydropower, and ocean waves. The sector also includes the physical labor provided by domesticated or commercial species for mechanical energy. Metrics for evaluating these services range from the extent of agricultural and forested land for bioenergy production to net present value and levelized cost for renewable energy sources. In some frameworks, energy services also include the intentional and in-situ cultivation of both terrestrial and aquatic plants and animals for energy production, each quantified by type and amount. Surface and ground water are also key resources used for energy generation, measured by their amount, type, and source. Some frameworks include oil and gas and other non-renewable energy sources in this category while others specifically exclude due to the negative impact finite non-renewable resources have on natural capital and ecosystem services. Overall, energy serves as an essential flow from Real Assets, contributing to diverse human needs and various industries.

Water Abundance

Water Abundance is comprised of the water supply and water storage, collectively Water Security, that ecosystems provide for both human and non-human needs. Water security encompasses both provisioning and regulating services essential for managing water flows and ensuring adequate availability across various uses. This integrated service regulates the rate of water flow through environments, providing long-term reserves in lakes, ponds, aquifers, and soil moisture, and also maintains baseline and peak flow conditions. It plays versatile roles, from supporting household consumption, industrial activities, and irrigation to mitigating risks of floods and other extreme water-related events. Additionally, it contributes to energy generation through reservoir hydropower and to urban water management through stormwater retention. Economic value metrics span avoided cost, replacement cost, market value, and net present value, considering both quantitative and qualitative measures such as annual average water yield, energy production, and water quality benefits.

Soil Health

Soil formation and quality encompass a suite of regulating and maintenance services vital to the health and stability of both ecological and human systems. These services include the accumulation and deposition of soils through plant matter decomposition, sediment deposition, and nutrient cycling, which collectively contribute to agricultural and ecosystem integrity. Soil also plays a critical role in the bioremediation of waste, soil and sediment retention, and landslide mitigation, primarily through the stabilizing effects of vegetation. Additionally, weathering processes help maintain the bio-geochemical conditions of soil, while decomposition and fixing processes enable nitrogen fixing, nitrification, and mineralization of dead organic material. These ecosystem contributions serve not only to enhance soil fertility and structure but also to protect against erosion, salinization, and other forms of degradation, thereby influencing soil's suitability for various functions like plant growth, water filtration, and human infrastructure. Metrics commonly used to assess these services range from economic valuation methods to qualitative and quantitative measures like soil erosion rate and soil organic carbon stocks.

Medicinal & Genetic

Medicinal and Genetic ecosystem services provide a range of provisioning and habitat services that are vital for both health and biotechnological applications. These services include the provision of traditional medicines, pharmaceuticals, assay organisms, and various biochemicals used for therapeutic purposes. They also encompass genetic resources, such as plant and animal genetic materials, that are essential for bioprospecting, gene synthesis, and the development of new breeds or products. The ecosystem contributes genetic material from all biota, including seed, spore, or gamete production, which serves as an intermediate service to biomass provisioning. These resources also play a critical role in maintaining genetic diversity, thereby supporting biodiversity protection. Economic value for these services is sometimes calculated, using a variety of valuation methods and metrics, such as the fraction of species locally known and used medicinally or phylogenetic diversity.

Clean Air

Air quality and filtration ecosystem services refer to the multi-faceted role that ecosystems, including forests, urban green open spaces, and riparian zones, play in maintaining breathable air and mitigating the harmful effects of pollutants. Falling under the umbrella of regulating and maintenance services, these services encompass the capturing and removal of fine particulate matter, ozone, sulfur oxide, nitrogen oxides, and volatile organic compounds, among other pollutants. The economic value of these services is often calculated using an avoided cost approach, factoring in healthcare savings and market prices for alternative air purification methods. Studies quantify the impact using various metrics such as dollar per acre per year, retention and prevented emissions of pollutants, and annual net primary production. These ecosystem services not only contribute to human well-being by reducing respiratory illnesses and healthcare costs but also play a vital role in regulating atmospheric composition and conditions, thus maintaining the stability and balance crucial for environmental health.

Climate Stability

Climate Stability is based on on the interdependent hydrological and carbon cycles, which influence temperature, weather patterns, and greenhouse gas levels. This stability is further bolstered by the synergistic contributions of various ecosystems, from forests and wetlands to urban green spaces. These ecosystems are crucial for carbon sequestration, gas regulation, and atmospheric condition modification, impacting both global and local climates, including temperature, humidity, and rainfall patterns. Economic value for these ecosystem services is assessed through methods like avoided cost, social cost of carbon (SCC), and market values, using metrics that range from carbon storage rates per acre per year to rates of heat mitigation in urban areas. Together, these elements contribute to a comprehensive understanding of climate regulation, which encompasses both the reduction of greenhouse gas concentrations and the regulation of atmospheric and oceanic chemistry, highlighting the critical role of ecosystems in mitigating climate change and supporting human well-being.

Clean Water

Water quality and filtration ecosystem services encompass the biological mechanisms that regulate the chemical composition of freshwater, groundwater, and coastal waters. These services are carried out by a range of organisms, including algae, animals, microorganisms, and vascular and non-vascular plants, to remove water pollutants through soil filtration, transformation by vegetation, and microbial activities. Ecosystem components are involved in breaking down waste and effectively isolating or transforming waste and toxins, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. The service category is generally classified as 'Regulating and Maintenance,' and the economic value is often calculated using methods like meta-analysis, replacement costs, and avoided costs. Metrics for these services include nutrient export at watershed/subwatershed outlets, areas of highest filtration, and the proportion of nitrogen retained as an indicator. These natural mechanisms serve as an ecological buffer against environmental degradation, improve water security, and mitigate harmful effects on human health and use.

Risk Resilience

Hazard Risk Reduction and Disaster Mitigation ecosystem services, often categorized under Regulating and Maintenance services, function to mitigate the risks and impacts of natural and extreme events such as floods, storms, fires, and droughts. These services operate through diverse ecosystems including forests, coastal and inland wetlands, urban green spaces, and coral reefs, providing sheltering, buffering, and attenuating effects. Valuation methods often include avoided costs, alternative costs, and meta-analysis, with metrics measured in various units like USD per acre per year or risk reduction percentages. Specific methodologies like geophysical modeling, hydrodynamic modeling, and function transfer methods tailor the economic value to U.S.-specific metrics, covering factors like income per capita and GDP. These services extend from moderation of extreme events, flood and storm protection to mediation of nuisances like noise and solid waste. Importantly, these services not only protect human communities but also enhance the resilience of ecosystems against both regular and extreme environmental events.


Pollination, classified under various categories such as Supporting, Regulating, Provisioning, and Agricultural Management, is a multifaceted ecosystem service that involves the transfer of pollen to facilitate the fertilization of plants. This process is carried out by a range of vectors including wind, insects, birds, and other animals. It serves critical functions beyond agricultural production, contributing to the maintenance of biodiversity, ecosystem health, and the abundance and/or diversity of other species. Economic value has been widely acknowledged, calculated through various methods like Market Price and specific valuation indices, and estimated to be significant—approximately $40 billion per year in the U.S. alone, according to one study. Metrics used for its assessment range from qualitative and quantitative measures like pollinator diversity, pollinator abundance index, and the extent of natural habitat in agricultural areas to economic contribution to agricultural production. Pollination services can be both a final and intermediate service, with wide-ranging impacts on food production, genetic diversity, and even cattle feed through insect-pollinated legumes.

Erosion Control

Erosion Control, categorized primarily as a Regulating service across different frameworks, involves the stabilization and retention of soil and sediment primarily through vegetation cover. This ecosystem service not only retains arable land and maintains slope stability but also contributes to coastal integrity and water quality. It plays a key role in reducing the risks and impacts of extreme events such as storms, floods, landslides, and avalanches. Economic value is often calculated using various valuation methods like Meta-Analysis, Market Price, Avoided Cost, and Replacement Cost, and metrics for its assessment include soil erosion rate, risk reduction, and sediment load delivered to streams. The service has wide-ranging benefits, including the support of agricultural activities, reduced road maintenance and dredging costs, and enhanced resilience against both regular and extreme environmental events. It's an intermediate to final service that guides improved land management practices, ultimately contributing to the stability and resilience of ecosystems.

Pest & Disease Control

Biological (Pest and Disease) Control, predominantly classified as a Regulating service, encompasses the ecosystem's role in providing pest, weed, and disease control. This includes the natural regulation of the incidence of harmful species that may affect both biomass production processes and human health. The service is delivered through both direct introduction and maintenance of predator populations and natural ecological functions like predator-prey relationships and microbial communities. These mechanisms contribute to overall ecosystem health and stability, often reducing the need for synthetic interventions such as herbicides. Economic value is commonly assessed using the Avoided Cost method, and metrics include population density of detrimental organisms, reduction in incidence, and ecosystem resilience. This service is beneficial for various economic and human activities, including agriculture and public health, and can be considered either a final or intermediate service.


Habitat, primarily categorized as a Supporting or Regulating and Maintenance service, plays an essential role in providing shelter, promoting the growth of species, and maintaining biological diversity. The service encompasses natural processes vital for species propagation and survival, such as nursery populations, refugia for migratory and resident species, and gene pool protection. It contributes to sustaining populations that are economically or recreationally important, often serving as an intermediate input to other final ecosystem services like biomass provision. Habitats range from coastal and inland wetlands to urban and rural green open spaces, and their functions are critical for the perpetuation of biodiversity and overall ecosystem health. Economic valuation methods vary, from Meta-Analysis and Contingent Valuation to more relative assessments like habitat quality maps and risk assessments. Metrics used to measure this service include the extent of suitable habitat, biodiversity intactness, and specific economic values per acre or hectare.

Recreation & Experiences

Recreation, Tourism, and Experiential ecosystem services fall under the category of cultural or informational services and encompass a wide array of experiences and economic benefits, both qualitative and quantitative. These services provide opportunities for direct, in-situ, physical and experiential interactions with diverse natural settings such as forests, coastal wetlands, inland wetlands, urban and rural open spaces, riparian habitats, beaches, dunes, shellfish reefs, and coral reefs. These interactions may focus on health, recuperation, or enjoyment, often measured by metrics like dollar-per-acre value, $/ha/yr, or "viewer days" per year. Methods for economic valuation include but are not limited to travel cost studies, meta-analysis, market price, hedonic pricing, contingent valuation, replacement cost, choice experiments, and function transfers. These services enrich human well-being by offering opportunities for mental restoration, recreational fishing, boating, hunting, birding, and other leisure activities, thereby contributing to local and national economies.

Research & Learning

Research & Learning ecosystem services encompass the use of natural systems and their biophysical characteristics for scientific research, education, cognitive development, and cultural expression. This multifaceted service category facilitates human prosperity and well-being by offering platforms for intellectual pursuits, enabling the acquisition of knowledge, skill development, and opportunities for both academic study and traditional ecological knowledge. It contributes to policy development, technological design—including biomimicry—and artistic inspiration. Metrics for evaluating this service vary widely, ranging from economic valuation methods such as Meta-Analysis and value estimates in terms of $/ha/yr, to more qualitative and quantitative measures like community engagement scores, number of people in close proximity to nature, academic publications, and the diversity of life from which to learn. These metrics are often adapted to fit diverse environmental settings, including coral reefs, landscapes, and seascapes.

Aesthetic & Sensory

Aesthetic & Sensory ecosystem services encapsulates the enjoyment and appreciation of natural scenery, sounds, and smells, offering sensory benefits especially in visual amenity. This service includes both attractive landscapes and ornamental resources like decorative plants and handicrafts. It is a cultural service that enriches human well-being by facilitating activities focused on healing, relaxation, recreation, and leisure, both through active and passive interactions with nature. Economic value is often calculated through methods such as hedonic pricing and meta-analysis, with metrics like $/ha/yr, viewshed maps, and area of natural landscapes being employed. The service can be further quantified through the number of people who engage in physically and psychologically beneficial activities in close contact with nature, thereby contributing to the overall amenity values of ecosystems.

Art & Inspiration

Art & Inspiration ecosystem services, also known under various other terms like Cultural Value or Spiritual Experience, provide multifaceted opportunities for human engagement with natural landscapes, seascapes, habitats, and organisms for spiritual, religious, historical, aesthetic, and intellectual enrichment. These services facilitate both material and non-material aspects of human well-being, including psychological and physical experiences, leisure, and recreation. They offer platforms for artistic and cultural expression, spiritual or religious activities, and the development of a sense of place, identity, and community cohesion. While the benefits often transcend monetary value, when economic valuation is pursued, metrics like USD per hectare per year or stability of land use and cover may be used. These services underscore the intangible yet deeply significant value of nature in enhancing human psychological well-being, social cohesion, and overall cultural richness.

Existence & Legacy

Existence & Legacy ecosystem services are the well-being and intrinsic worth derived from the mere existence, preservation, and potential future significance of ecosystems, species, and their biotic and abiotic characteristics. These services span the categories of Information, Cultural, and Non-Material services. They include Existence Value, which is the satisfaction gained from knowing a natural resource exists, and Bequest Value, the importance of preserving these resources for future generations. Also encapsulated is the concept of "keeping options open" or “Option Value," which emphasizes the importance of preserving a variety of biological entities for their potential future benefits, including unknown discoveries and ongoing biological evolution. Economic valuation methods like Replacement Cost and Meta-Analysis may be employed, with quantifiable metrics ranging from annualized economic valuations and USD per hectare per year to species' survival probability and phylogenetic diversity. Together, these elements emphasize the multi-dimensional importance of preserving biological entities for both current well-being and the well-being of future generations.

Land Utilization

Land Utilization refers to the rights, activities, and legal frameworks associated with the ownership, management, and use of real estate and infrastructure assets. Rooted in the "bundle of rights," it encompasses the right to possess, use, control, and dispose of land and built structures. It covers everything from outright ownership to various forms of leasing, influenced by real property law, zoning regulations, and contractual arrangements like public-private partnerships. A major consideration, albeit nuance, is that all the traditional terrestrial ecosystem service categories and benefits flow from the land and the real asset legal paradigm.

Resource Utilization

Resource Utilization refers to the use, and management of natural commodities and resources tied to real property, encompassing both traditional and emerging rights. While traditional rights like mineral, water, and air rights focus on extraction and use, emerging rights like carbon, natural asset, and viewshed rights expand the scope to include environmental services like carbon sequestration and aesthetic preservation. These rights can be owned, leased, or traded independently of the real estate, often in line with environmental goals and natural capital investment strategies. A major consideration, albeit nuance, is that the traditional ecosystem service categories of raw materials, food, energy are included here as they are no longer separate from real property rights.

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