At Conservation International (CI), we like to say, “People need nature to thrive.” But behind that statement are countless questions revealing a more complicated reality: Where is the nature that people need? Which places are most important to protect? And how much can we chip away at various ecosystems before their value is compromised?
Take Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in Asia. The nation’s 15 million residents are directly dependent on nature for fish to eat, drinking water and meeting other basic needs. As the Cambodian government strives to develop the country’s economy and improve the lives of its people, it must balance development with the need to maintain the lifeline that nature provides for people.
If nature is not adequately protected, human well-being will ultimately decline. Figuring out which places and resources are most critical to conserve is the first step.
To help countries meet this challenge, a team of scientists at CI has developed a framework for mapping essential “natural capital” — the biodiversity and ecosystems that support human well-being. Cambodia was one of the first places we tested it out.