Ecosystem services are all those tangible and intangible benefits that natural or human-modified ecosystems provide and which are vital for human well-being. The topic of ecosystem services is becoming one of the most dynamic concepts among ecologists and conservationists. The concept is important in a scientific, a political, as well as in a practical point of view. Public awareness raising is a key objective, as the goal is that ecosystem services become quantifiable in order to integrate them into decision making processes oncerning land use.
Ecosystem services have been classified by several studies (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005, TEEB - The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity 2010, Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) 2013) into the following main categories:
provisioning services – are products obtained from ecosystems (food, such as crops, fruit, fish, fuel and fiber, such as timber and wool, biochemicals, natural medicines, pharmaceuticals, genetic resources for plant/animal breeding and ornamental resources such as flowers, shells etc.)
regulating services – are services obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes (maintenance or air quality, climate and water regulation, erosion control, water purification and detoxification, natural hazard protection and bioremediation of waste)
cultural services – are benefits that people obtain through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, recreation etc. (spiritual and religious value, inspiration for art, social relations, aesthetic values, cultural heritage values, recreation and ecotourism)
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment concluded that 15 out of the 24 measured ecosystem services are in serious decline, only 4 are improving and 5 are stable but threatened in some parts of the globe. Loss of ecosystem services has powerful impacts on our economy and society! Loss of ecosystem services negatively impacts our economy, while economic poverty is often the main cause of resource overexploitation and unsustainable use of the environment. Loss of ecosystem services and degradation of natural capital further impoverishes disadvantaged societies. Economic inequality in turn reaffirms societal instability and dysfunction.
If you feel like plunging into more knowledge and get acquainted with the basic of ecosystem services, please visit these sites:
- Brochure on Ecosystem Services
- CEEweb’s knowledge hub on ecosystem services
- The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity
- Biodiversity Information System for Europe