Humans rely on natural capital (the biophysical assets within the natural environment that deliver economic value through ecosystem services) for survival and well-being. The most obvious ecosystem services include the food we eat, the water we drink and the plant materials used for fuel, building materials and medicines. There are also many less visible ecosystem services such as climate regulation and natural flood defences provided by forests, the billions of tonnes of carbon stored by soil and peat lands, or the pollination of crops by insects.
Unsustainable farming systems generally deplete natural capital by degrading soils, polluting water and producing large quantities of global greenhouse gases, the effects of which disproportionately affect poor people. However, for Sustainable Intensification to occur natural capital cannot be regarded in isolation. For example, complementing natural capital with social capital greatly increases its productive capacity. Although not an exhaustive list, natural capital can be restored and conserved with conservation agriculture, organic agriculture, and water conservation.