Ecosystem services

The food and fresh water that keep us alive, the wood that gives us shelter and furniture, even the climate and the air we breathe: all are products of the living ecosystems of this planet.

However, as noted in the UN sponsored Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report of 2005,

“Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted.”

So lets explore those ecosystem services we rely on and see how they fairing under human management and understand how we can act to help re-build the resilience and health of these vital but overstressed systems…

Ecosystem Services

As defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Ecosystem Services essential to Human Wellbeing can be grouped as follows…

Provisioning Services – Provisioning services are the actual products obtained from the ecosystem. These services include the Provision of Food and Fibre, Fresh water, Fresh air, Genetic Resources, Fuel, etc…

Regulating Services – Regulating services are those benefits we enjoy from natures regulation of ecosystem processes. These services include Air quality maintenance, Climate Regulation, Water Regulation, Pollination, etc…

Cultural Services – Cultural services are the non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experiences.

Supporting Services – Supporting services are those which are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services.  Their impacts on people are either indirect or occur over long periods of time, and they include the production of atmospheric oxygen, water cycling, nutrient cycling, soil formation, etc…

General trends

Ecosystem Services (fresh water, food, fuel, etc…) are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems or nature. All regions of Earth produces these services and much of human life is dependent on them. However, in our efforts to improve the lives of billions with their growing demands for food, fresh water, fiber, and energy we have made unprecedented changes to the ecosystems we depend on. In our altering our ecosystems to provide more food and energy we have inadvertently weakened nature’s ability to deliver other key services such as the regulation of our climate (i.e. Global Warming), provide fresh water (i.e. drought) the purification of air and water, to protection from disasters, the provision of medicines, and many more.