Mapping the planet’s critical natural assets

Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, Rachel A. Neugarten, Richard P. Sharp, Pamela M. Collins, Stephen Polasky, David Hole, Richard Schuster, Matthew Strimas-Mackey, Mark Mulligan, Carter Brandon, Sandra Diaz, Etienne Fluet-Chouinard, L. J. Gorenflo, Justin A. Johnson, Christina M. Kennedy, Patrick W. Keys, Kate Longley-Wood, Peter B. McIntyre, Monica Noon, Unai PascualCatherine Reidy Liermann, Patrick R. Roehrdanz, Guido Schmidt-Traub, M. Rebecca Shaw, Mark Spalding, Will R. Turner, Arnout van Soesbergen, Reg A. Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Sustaining the organisms, ecosystems and processes that underpin human wellbeing is necessary to achieve sustainable development. Here we define critical natural assets as the natural and semi-natural ecosystems that provide 90% of the total current magnitude of 14 types of nature’s contributions to people (NCP), and we map the global locations of these critical natural assets at 2 km resolution. Critical natural assets for maintaining local-scale NCP (12 of the 14 NCP) account for 30% of total global land area and 24% of national territorial waters, while 44% of land area is required to also maintain two global-scale NCP (carbon storage and moisture recycling). These areas overlap substantially with cultural diversity (areas containing 96% of global languages) and biodiversity (covering area requirements for 73% of birds and 66% of mammals). At least 87% of the world’s population live in the areas benefitting from critical natural assets for local-scale NCP, while only 16% live on the lands containing these assets. Many of the NCP mapped here are left out of international agreements focused on conserving species or mitigating climate change, yet this analysis shows that explicitly prioritizing critical natural assets and the NCP they provide could simultaneously advance development, climate and conservation goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-61
Number of pages11
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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