The tool was developed by the Natural Capital Project and is intended to be used in the decision-making process, especially in assessing trade-offs that arise over land use. The Natural Capital Approach involves stakeholder consultations (general discussion, outlining questions of interest and defining the scope), followed by scenario development (where data are compiled and models are run). The outputs are assessed and synthesized, and can then be used to inform decisions. The Natural Capital Project has used InVEST in over 20 decision contexts worldwide, including for spatial planning, corporate risk management, ecosystem restoration, assessing development impacts and designing Payment for Ecosystem Services schemes.
Original geographic scope:
Global scope (Natural Capital projects)
Terrestrial, freshwater or marine focus?:
Specific ecosystem services modelled:
For full descriptions of each please see the user guide
- Carbon Storage and Sequestration
- Coastal Blue Carbon
- Coastal Vulnerability
- Crop Production
- Crop Pollination
- Fisheries Production
- Forest Carbon Edge Effect
- Habitat Quality
- Habitat Risk Assessment
- Marine Fish Aquaculture
- Nutrient Delivery Ratio
- Offshore wind energy
- Reservoir Hydropower Production
- Scenic Quality
- Seasonal Water Yield
- Sediment Delivery Ratio
- Urban Cooling
- Urban Flood Risk Mitigation
- Wave energy
Estimated working days to complete a project:
Simple analysis - 1 day. Detailed stakeholder engagement project - several years.
Approximately every 3 months.
Technical support provided?:
The Natural Capital Project - a partnership based at Stanford University that includes WWF (World Wildlife Fund), The Nature Conservancy, the Institute on the Environment at University of Minnesota, Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Developer (organisation type):
- Non-Governmental Organisation
- Non-profit Conservation Organisation
Richard Sharp, James Douglass, Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Spencer Wood, Anne Guerry, Heather Tallis, Taylor Ricketts and many others (see project team at https://naturalcapitalproject.stanford.edu/about/people)
Number of case studies outside the uk:
InVEST has been used in over 100 projects worldwide by Natural Capital Project staff and partners. Also, active users in 125 countries. (Reference - https://purl.stanford.edu/bb284rg5424)
Examples of case studies outside of uk:
Willamette Basin, Oregon, USA
This study used InVEST to predict changes in ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation and community production levels and to monitor tradeoffs at a landscape scale using stakeholder-defined scenarios of landuse change in the Willamette Basin, Oregon, USA. Scenarios that received high scores for a number of different ES had high scores for biodiversity suggesting little tradeoff between biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services. Scenarios involving increased development had higher commodity production values, but lower levels of biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services. Including payments for carbon sequestration alleviated this tradeoff. Analyzing tradeoffs between ES can help with natural resource decision making (reference study).
China, Baoxing County
Planners base their landuse plans on 'Ecosystem Function Conservation Areas' which indicate areas that have high importance for ecosystem services and biodiversity. InVEST was used to design development zones to avoid sites with high ES provision and importance for nature conservation. The InVEST output maps highlighted that development activities were planned in areas important for a number of priority ES. This led to reconsideration of development plans by the local government. See also the example of the National Ecosystem Assessment for China.
InVEST models were used to help the largest private landowner in Hawaii implement a plan to fulfil their mission to balance environmental, economic, cultural, education and community values. Alternative planning and land-use scenarios were modelled (e.g. returning agricultural land to sugarcane biofuel stock, residential development and agricultural and forest diversification). The quantified services were carbon storage, water quality and financial return from the land. Cultural services were input qualitatively. Results led to a decision to rehabilitate irrigation infrastructure and to invest in the diversification of forestry and agriculture.
Third party reviews / cross:
Bagstad et al. (2013) conducted a comparative assessment of decision-support tools for ecosystem service quantification and valuation in the San Pedro river basin, Arizona, USA. The key findings were that InVEST is appropriate in contexts where ecological processes are well-understood but many models can be data and time-intensive to apply. They recognised the need for an improved data archive that contains information about what data are needed to populate the models and descriptions of the contexts under which the data and models are applicable.
Nemec et al. (2013) surveyed users of a number of GIS models for mapping ecosystem services, including InVEST and ARIES, in 2011. They concluded that the strengths of InVEST, as identified by survey respondents, included ease of use, simplicity, good selection of important ecosystem services, peer-reviewed methodology and multi-functionality, plus the growing community of users that share information within a supported InVEST forum, as well as support offered from the developer team. Weaknesses identified by survey respondents including the modeling capabilities of freshwater services, the biodiversity model, the potential for oversimplification, and lack of sufficient explanation of the models in the user guide.
InVEST was also reviewed in the 2013 Natural England review of green infrastructure valuation tools carried out by eftec/Cascade (access report here).