Design stage: prototype
Ecosystems provide people with crucial benefits, from clean water to nourishing food. Nature helps us adapt to a changing climate, provides us with materials to build our homes, and boosts human health. Earth’s ecosystems enable the human experience.
Leaders want to design policies and make investments that equitably and efficiently secure nature’s benefits to people. But, they often lack access to the detailed information they need to take action.
Decision-makers need to know where and how nature is supporting people.
Sediment Retention: Erosion causes issues for land degradation and water quality, with sediments (e.g. sand, silt, gravel) clogging waterways and often carrying diseases that can lead to water-borne illness. However, some of this erosion may be retained by healthy ecosystems, therefore regulating water quality in streams. People and infrastructure benefitting from sediment retention are those downstream from erosion sources who would otherwise be impacted by poor water quality.
Nitrogen Retention: Fertilizers like nitrogen are a major source of pollution for freshwater systems and drinking water. However, some of this nitrogen pollution may be retained by healthy ecosystems, therefore regulating water quality in streams. The people benefitting from nitrogen retention are those downstream from pollution sources, who would otherwise be exposed to nitrogen contamination in their drinking water.
Ecosystems provide numerous direct and indirect benefits to people, such as recreation, hunting and gathering, aesthetics (visual beauty), mental and physical health, cultural and traditional value, and sense of place. Many of these contributions depend on the ability of people to access nature, so we use proximity to natural lands as a proxy for nature’s contributions to people.
Coastal habitats—such as coral reefs, mangroves, salt marsh, and seagrasses—protect shorelines from the impacts of storms by absorbing and reducing the strength of waves. These habitats reduce the risk of flooding and erosion for coastal communities. The amount of protection provided by coastal habitats depends on the coastline's physical exposure to coastal hazards and the location of coastal communities and infrastructure.
Up to two-thirds of all crops require some degree of animal pollination to reach their maximum yields, and natural habitat around farmlands can support healthy populations of wild pollinators (e.g. bees, birds, other insects) by providing them with foraging and nesting resources. The potential contribution of wild pollinators to nutrition production is based on the sufficiency of habitat that surrounds farmlands and how dependent a given crop is on pollination.
Multilateral development bank staff who create country engagement strategies and evaluate development projects can rapidly identify hotspots where nature provides the most benefits to people within the places they work. With this information, bank staff can design investments that safeguard natural capital in support of more sustainable and inclusive development.
Business leaders can see how company assets depend on and potentially impact benefits from ecosystems throughout their operations, from surrounding areas to supply chains, enabling them to manage their investments in ways that maximize benefits and minimize harms.
Design stage: prototype