Natural capital assets

Natural capital assets are specific elements within nature that provide the goods and services that the economy depends on.

UNEP-WCMC have developed a hierarchical natural capital asset classification to support the identification of natural capital assets which underpin ecosystem services. The classification was primarily developed because existing classifications were alone not fit-for-purpose. The development of a standardised, scientifically robust and fit-for-purpose classification, which consolidates and modifies existing classifications, enables consistent identification and description of the natural capital assets underpinning ecosystem services. A scientific paper on the classification has been published in the journal Ecosystem Services.

The natural capital asset classification comprises a four-level hierarchical structure, allowing aggregation or disaggregation depending on the level of complexity required in decision making. ENCORE adopts Level 3 of the framework as below:


The atmosphere is the mass of air surrounding the earth. It's components (such as oxygen) and it's processes (such as temperature regulation) support a number of essential ecosystem services.


Habitats refer to the conditions of the environment necessary for life to prosper. These conditions vary widely between species but can include such elements as water and food availability, temperature range, or absence of predators. Habitats can be defined very narrowly for one population of a particular species or more widely by type such as forests or coastal habitats that host many different species.

Land geomorphology

Land geomorphology describes the structure of the land, such as mountains and valleys. Land geomorphology supports the provision of regulatory services, like erosion control.


Minerals are naturally occuring compounds not produced by living beings. They can be metallic or non-metallic and play an important supporting role in the provision of services like soil quality.

Ocean geomorphology

Ocean geomorphology describes the structure of the marine environment such as shelfs and slopes. Ocean geomorphology supports the provision of regulatory services, like dilution by ecosystems.

Soils and sediments

Soils and sediments are the layers of the earth's surface that support life. They comprise top-soil, sub-soil and ocean sediments and support a number of regulatory services.


Species includes plants, animals, fungi, algae and genetic resources, which can be wild or domestic/commercial, for example livestock. Like habitats, species underpin a wide range of ecosystem services.


Water includes surface water, ground water, ocean water, fossil water and soil water. Water is essential for a wide range of ecosystem services.