Government officials, conservation professionals, farmers, and other land owners make decisions about how to use their land all the time. Yet, never before have any of these groups had a systematic way to demonstrate the future costs and benefits of their decisions for people and the environment. In its most ground-breaking effort, the Natural Capital Project aims to meet this challenge with InVEST, a new tool that can model and map the delivery, distribution, and economic value of life-support systems (ecosystem services), well into the future. The tool will help users visualize the impacts of potential decisions, identifying tradeoffs and compatibilities between environmental, economic, and social benefits.

InVEST (Integrated Valuation of Ecosystem Services and Trade-offs) models are spatially-explicit. A standard input of all models is a map that describes current and alternative scenarios of land use and land cover. The models estimate the amount and value of ecosystem services, either in biophysical terms (e.g., tons of carbon sequestered) or economic terms (e.g., net present value of that sequestered carbon), provided under each scenario. InVEST consists of models for carbon sequestration, pollination of crops, managed timber production, water pollution regulation and sediment retention for reservoir maintenance. It also includes a biodiversity model so that comparisons and tradeoffs between biodiversity and ecosystem services can be analyzed. Models of several other land-based services will be released soon, such as flood mitigation, hydropower production, irrigation, agricultural production, open access harvest of timber and non-timber products, recreation and tourism, and cultural benefits, as well as models for services provided by coastal and marine ecosystems.

What Is It?

Modeling and analysis tool

  • Geographic Information System (GIS)
  • Watershed Model
  • Socioeconomic model
  • Other modeling and analysis tool

Visualization tool (for data and scenarios)

Decision support tool

  • Conservation and restoration site selection tool
  • Coastal and watershed land use planning tool


  • GIS based, GIS platform: ArcGIS 9.2 

  • Tool handles socio-economic impacts

  • Visualization capabilities: Maps of the availability of multiple ecosystem services under alternative current and future land use scenarios

Expertise Needed

Technical expertise: Basic computer skills sufficient/Some computer/GIS/programming skills necessary

Scientific expertise: General understanding of issues

Resource Requirements: Variable- depends on data availability, location of interest, project goals

Types of Data Needed

Equipment needs: ArcGIS 9.2

Types of data input needed to use tool: See user manual

Input formats: raster, GIS shape file, look-up tables 

Types of output data from tool: maps, balance sheets

Output formats: raster, look-up tables

How Do I Get It?


Demo Website:

Tool Cost: Free

Contact Information

Developer: The Natural Capital Project

Tool contact: Heather Tallis


Phone: 650 723 7725

Address: 371 Serra Mall Department of Biology and Woods Institute for the Environment, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-5020


Technical support: User manual