Despite extensive recent research elucidating the complex relationship between ecosystem services and human wellbeing, little work has sought to understand how ecosystem services contribute to wellbeing and poverty alleviation. This paper adopts concepts from the “Theory of Human Need” and the “Capability Approach” to both identify the multitude of links occurring between ecosystem services and wellbeing domains, and to understand the mechanisms through which ecosystem services contribute to wellbeing. Focus Group Discussions (N = 40) were carried out at 8 sites in Mozambique and Kenya to elicit how, why, and to what extent benefits derived from ecosystem services contribute to different wellbeing domains. Our results highlight three types of mechanisms through which ecosystem services contribute to wellbeing, monetary, use and experience. The consideration of these mechanisms can inform the development of interventions that aim to protect or improve flows of benefits to people. Firstly, interventions that support multiple types of mechanisms will likely support multiple domains of wellbeing. Secondly, overemphasising certain types of mechanism over others could lead to negative social feedbacks, threatening the future flows of ecosystem services. Finally, the three mechanism types are interlinked and can act synergistically to enhance the capacities of individuals to convert ecosystem services to wellbeing.