Determining nature’s contributions to achieve the sustainable development goals


Academics and policy-makers recognize that humans and nature should be studied and managed as integrated social–ecological systems. Recently, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) approved the Summary for Policy-makers of the Regional and Subregional Assessment of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services for the Americas, concluding the environment should be mainstreamed across development sectors. Beyond its mandate to generate understanding of nature and human well-being from diverse knowledge sources, IPBES is also tasked with advancing science-policy tools to aide information uptake into decisions. Based on the Americas Assessment’s 3-year, continental-scale experience, we developed three strategies to guide decisions regarding nature’s contributions to people (NCP) for achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs). Specifically, we prioritized contributions, recognized nature’s plural values, and grouped diverse human–nature relationships to orient attention towards important NCP–SDG linkages, expand the suite of environment–development criteria considered, and create bundles to facilitate the incorporation of complexity into decisions.

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Fig. 1

(modified from Seixas et al. 2018)

Fig. 2

(modified from IPBES 2018)

Data availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from


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Special thanks to the Americas Assessment experts and the Americas Technical Support Unit and IPBES Secretariat staff.

Author information




CBA and CSS conceived the idea; all authors designed the survey; CBA, CSS and JDJ analyzed data; all authors interpreted data; CBA wrote the draft of the manuscript; all authors provided feedback on the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Christopher B. Anderson.

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Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Handled by Osamu Saito, UNU-Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability Institute of Sustainability and Peace, Japan.

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Anderson, C.B., Seixas, C.S., Barbosa, O. et al. Determining nature’s contributions to achieve the sustainable development goals. Sustain Sci 14, 543–547 (2019).

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  • Biodiversity
  • Conservation
  • Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services
  • Science-policy
  • Sustainability