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Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Tradeoffs

InVEST is a suite of software models used to map and value the goods and services from nature that sustain and fulfill human life.

If properly managed, ecosystems yield a flow of services that are vital to humanity, including the production of goods (e.g., food), life-support processes (e.g., water purification), and life-fulfilling conditions (e.g., beauty, recreation opportunities), and the conservation of options (e.g., genetic diversity for future use).

Despite its importance, this natural capital is poorly understood, scarcely monitored, and, in many cases, undergoing rapid degradation and depletion.

InVEST enables decision makers to assess quantified tradeoffs associated with alternative management choices and to identify areas where investment in natural capital can enhance human development and conservation.

The toolset currently includes sixteen distinct InVEST models suited to terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems.

Questions InVEST can Answer

How will a new coastal management plan impact seafood harvest, renewable energy production, and protection from storms?

Conservation organizations can use InVEST to align their missions to protect biodiversity with activities that improve human livelihoods.

Where would reforestation or protection achieve the greatest downstream water quality benefits?

Corporations, such as bottling plants, timber companies, and water utilities, can use InVEST to decide how and where to make investments to protect their supply chains.

Which parts of a watershed provide the greatest carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and tourism values?

Government agencies can use InVEST to help determine how to manage lands and waters to provide an optimal mix of benefits to people or to help design permitting and mitigation programs that sustain nature's benefits to society.

Who Should Use InVEST

Governments, non-profits, and corporations manage natural resources for multiple uses and inevitably must evaluate tradeoffs among them. The multi-service, modular design of InVEST provides an effective tool for balancing the environmental and economic needs of these diverse entities.

How it Works

How InVEST Works

InVEST is most effectively used within a decision-making process that starts with stakeholder consultations.

Through discussion, questions of interest, management choices, and/or policy options are identified.

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Stakeholders develop spatial "scenarios" to show, for example, several alternative areas where fishing might be prohibited, where agricultural land might be converted to residential development, or where climate change is expected to affect precipitation and temperature patterns.

Scenarios typically include maps of potential future land use/land cover and/or marine habitats and ocean uses. These are critical inputs in all InVEST models.

Following stakeholder consultations and scenario development, InVEST can estimate how the current location, amount, delivery, and value of relevant services are likely to change in the future.

InVEST models are spatially-explicit, using maps as information sources and producing maps as outputs. InVEST returns results in either biophysical terms (e.g., tons of carbon sequestered) or economic terms (e.g., net present value of that sequestered carbon).

The spatial resolution of analyses is also flexible, allowing users to address questions at the local, regional or global scales.

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InVEST results can be shared with the stakeholders and decision-makers who created the scenarios to inform upcoming decisions. Using InVEST in an iterative process, these stakeholders may choose to create new scenarios based on the information revealed by the models until suitable solutions are identified.

InVEST models are based on production functions that define how an ecosystem's structure and function affect the flows and values of ecosystem services. The models account for both service supply (e.g. living habitats as buffers for storm waves) and the location and activities of people who benefit from services (e.g. location of people and infrastructure potentially affected by coastal storms).

Since data are often scarce, the initial versions of InVEST offer relatively simple models with few input requirements. These models are best suited for identifying patterns in the provision and value of ecosystem services. With validation, these models can also provide useful estimates of the magnitude and value of services provided.

Technical Specifications

InVEST models can be run independently, or as script tools in the ArcGIS ArcToolBox environment. You will need a mapping software such as QGIS or ArcGIS to view your results. Running InVEST effectively does not require knowledge of Python programming, but it does require basic to intermediate skills in ArcGIS.

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The tool is modular in the sense that you do not have to model all the ecosystem services listed, but rather can select only those of interest.

The User's Guide steps you through installing and running the tools, provides some of the theory behind each model and describes the input data requirements and how to interpret output results. A set of sample data is also supplied so that you can use to get to know the models and how they work.

Participate in NatCap Forums to get help from NatCap model developers and software engineers how how to put InVEST to work for you.