Around the world, leaders are increasingly recognizing ecosystems as natural capital assets that supply life-support services of tremendous value. The challenge is to turn this recognition into incentives and institutions that will guide wise investments in natural capital, on a large scale. Advances are required on three key fronts, each featured here: the science of ecosystem production functions and service mapping; the design of appropriate finance, policy, and governance systems; and the art of implementing these in diverse biophysical and social contexts. Scientific understanding of ecosystem production functions is improving rapidly but remains a limiting factor in incorporating natural capital into decisions, via systems of national accounting and other mechanisms. Novel institutional structures are being established for a broad array of services and places, creating a need and opportunity for systematic assessment of their scope and limitations. Finally, it is clear that formal sharing of experience, and defining of priorities for future work, could greatly accelerate the rate of innovation and uptake of new approaches.