Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history, largely to meet the growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fibre, and fuel. The changes that have been made to ecosystems have contributed to substantial net gains in human well-being and economic development, but these gains have been achieved at growing costs in the form of the degradation of many ecosystem services.  These problems, unless addressed will substantially diminish the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems.The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) report (2005, and reviewed in 2014) defines ecosystem services as the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems and distinguishes four categories of service (supporting (the basis for all services), provisioning, regulation, cultural).

Values, benefits and interactions of ecosystems

Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

  • Supporting services – nutrient cycling, primary production, soil formation
  • Provisioning services – food (including seafood and game), crops, wild foods, and spices, raw materials (including lumber, skins, fuel wood, organic matter, fodder, and fertiliser), genetic resources (including crop improvement genes, and health care), water, Biogenic minerals, medicinal resources  (including pharmaceuticals, chemical models, and test and assay organisms), energy (hydropower, biomass fuels), ornamental resources (including fashion, handicraft, jewellery, pets, worship, decoration and souvenirs like furs, feathers, ivory, orchids, butterflies, aquarium fish, shells, etc.)
  • Regulating services – carbon sequestration and climate regulation, waste decomposition and detoxification, purification of water and air, pest and disease control, erosion regulation, disease regulation, pollination, natural hazard regulation
  • Cultural services – (including use of nature as motif in books, film, painting, folklore, national symbols, architect, advertising, etc), spiritual and historical (including use of nature for religious or heritage value. Wellbeing – Security (personal safety, secure resource access, security from disasters), basic material for a good life (adequate livelihoods, sufficient nutritious food, shelter, access to goods), health (strength, feeling well, access to clean air and water), good social relations (social cohesion, mutual respect, ability to help others), freedom of choice and action (opportunity to be able to achieve what an individual values doing and being).

Changes that affect biodiversity include changes in population, technology, lifestyles.  Such changes that have a negative impact on biodiversity, also affect human wellbeing.  These interactions take place at different scales (e.g. local to global), or at different time scales (e.g. the effects of education about ecosystems to secondary school pupils can have a positive impact potentially for a lifetime).

Global, regional and local strategies and interventions using Ecosystem Services approach

Source: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

Our work uses these services and benefits as a basis to plan and manage land using best practice and new methods of applying environmental sustainability, whilst at the same time ensuring that it provides multiple social and economic services for the benefit of society.