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What is Natural Capital?

Nature provides us with goods and services at no cost. These natural goods and services are the basis of every element of our lives. To reciprocate and for future generations to benefit from these resources, we must take care of nature, our natural capital. We also need our governments to put a value on the conservation and restoration of our natural capital as a basis for our economic well-being.

Natural Goods are those things that we consume. Natural Services are not consumable.

Natural Goods:
• Wood for construction purposes such as lumber, floor boards, beams/poles, and cross ties.
• Vegetable foodstuffs, such as roots, grains, nuts, berries and mushrooms.
• Bush foods – vegetable foodstuff harvested from the wild.
• Thatch for roofing materials and matting, consisting of palm leaves and grasses.
• Fibre for textiles and rope.
• Firewood for domestic cooking and heating and for charcoal production.
• Forage for grazing by domestic livestock on meadows and other rangelands.
• Fodder and silage (fermented, high-moisture forage) for domestic livestock.
• Medicinal plants and pharmaceuticals.
• Dyestuffs for textiles, foods and cosmetics.
• Exudates, such as gums, resins, and latex.
• Honey and oils.
• Miscellaneous natural products for use in rituals, for example scented woods.
• Seafood, including finfish, shellfish, macrophytic algae and marine mammals.
• Meat and animal products from a wide range of vertebrate and some invertebrate animals consumed for food and otherwise utilized for hides, sinews, bones, tusks, blubber, etc.
• Seaweed for food and soil enrichment.
• Mined ores and minerals.
• Soils and soil biota.
• Pollinators – birds and insects.
• Water.
• Air.

Natural Services:
• Protection of water recharge and storage areas by vegetation that absorbs rainwater and snowmelt and that detains surface runoff and allows it to percolate into aquifers from which water can later be extracted for use.
• Detention of potential floodwaters by organic soils that encourage water percolation and by emergent wetland vegetation that provides mechanical resistance against surface runoff.
• Reduction of soil erosion and consequent reduction of eroded sediments due to the soil binding capacities of roots and the soil crusts formed by microorganisms.
• Transformation of excess nutrients, including denitrification (releasing excess nitrogen into the atmosphere) and the storage of mineral nutrients in biomass and detritus.
• Immobilization of contaminants, such as heavy metals, agrichemicals, disease-causing organisms, and pollutants in stormwater and industrial discharge, by organic matter and other colloidal (particles which may attract other particles) materials in soil to which these contaminants are adsorbed (attracted and collected on the surface).
• Cleansing of particulates from the air by the filtering action of forests and other terrestrial vegetation.
• Cleansing of particulates in water by adsorbtion to organic surfaces and by the stilling of turbid water by aquatic and emergent vegetation and consequent settling of suspended solids.
• Reduction in noise pollution by the baffling effects of mainly arboreal vegetation.
• Renewal of topsoil by means of the incorporation of humus into mineral soil or by the deposition of peat, minerals or soils.
• Conservation of germplasm (genetic material) such as the wild source of cultivated plants and domesticated animals for use in overcoming inbreeding and for introductions of genes to induce disease resistance and to develop new economic varieties; also the conservation of alleles (genetic stocks) as an aspect of biodiversity.
• Provision of habitat for pollen vectors, particularly of domesticated crops, which commonly require natural habitat for completion of their life cycles.
• Provision of habitat for predaceous arthropods (insects, spiders, etc.) or other predators of crop pests, which also require natural habitat for completion of their life cycles.
• Provision of habitat for valued wildlife, including rare, endangered, threatened, and red-listed species as well as game animals, including fish, in areas where hunting and fishing are practiced.
• Buffering of acidity in soil and water.
• Regulation of the quantities of atmospheric gasses, including oxygen and carbon dioxide.
• Natural and semi-natural landscapes that serve as the basis for ecotourism, agritourism and many kinds of recreational and educational activities.
• Offsetting or dampening extremes of climate by the dissipation of solar radiation as heat.
• Buffering coastlines and shores from wave action, tsunamis, and storm surges by coastal vegetation.

If we don’t maintain our natural goods and services in a healthy and functioning condition:
• we diminish or lose these natural goods and services
• we have to substitute manufactured goods and engineered services, which are costly and also rely on natural capital being available, and
• if we do not or cannot provide substitutes, our local economy and our individual and community well-being will suffer.

To find out more about our RNC Workshop contact us at [email protected]

Visit the RNC Alliance website at www.rncalliance.org to find out about the science of RNC and how RNC is being implemented around the world.

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