InVEST is a suite of free, open-source software models used to map and value the goods and services from nature that sustain and fulfill human life. If properly managed, ecosystems yield a flow of services that are vital to humanity, including the production of goods (e.g., food), life-support processes (e.g., water purification), and life-fulfilling conditions (e.g., beauty, opportunities for recreation), and the conservation of options (e.g., genetic diversity for future use). Despite its importance, this natural capital is poorly understood, scarcely monitored, and, in many cases, undergoing rapid degradation and depletion.
Governments, non-profits, international lending institutions, and corporations all manage natural resources for multiple uses and inevitably must evaluate tradeoffs among them. The multi-service, modular design of InVEST provides an effective tool for balancing the environmental and economic goals of these diverse entities.
InVEST models are based on production functions that define how changes in an ecosystem’s structure and function are likely to affect the flows and values of ecosystem services across a land- or a seascape. The models account for both service supply (e.g., living habitats as buffers for storm waves) and the location and activities of people who benefit from services (e.g., location of people and infrastructure potentially affected by coastal storms).
InVEST enables decision makers to assess quantified tradeoffs associated with alternative management choices and to identify areas where investment in natural capital can enhance human development and conservation. The toolset currently includes eighteen distinct ecosystem service models designed for terrestrial, freshwater, marine, and coastal ecosystems, as well as a number of “helper tools” to assist with locating and processing input data and with understanding and visualizing outputs.