Our society is embedded in an environment that provides a wide range of services that are very important in maintaining our communities and our lives. These are generally called ecoystem services, which can be divided into four main categories, as shown below:
• food (including seafood and game), crops, wild foods, and spices
• pharmaceuticals, biochemicals, and industrial products
• energy (hydropower, biomass fuels)
• carbon sequestration and climate regulation
• waste decomposition and detoxification
• purification of water and air
• crop pollination
• pest and disease control
• nutrient dispersal and cycling
• seed dispersal
• Primary production
• cultural, intellectual and spiritual inspiration
• recreational experiences (including ecotourism)
• scientific discovery
One of the many websites that I regularly read is Conservationbytes written by Corey J.A. Bradshore. Bradshore has dedicated his "site to highlighting, discussing and critiquing the science of conservation that has demonstrated measurable, positive effects for global biodiversity".
Bradshore published the following talk on the web site. The first few minutes discuss the video at the top of this post.
As the reality and dangers of biodiversity loss became increasingly evident an international response was clearly required. Consequently the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) was launched in 2001. The MA has produced a range of technical reports which are summarised in the Living Beyond Our Means report.
The key messages of the report are:
■ Everyone in the world depends on nature and ecosystem services to provide the conditions for a decent, healthy, and secure life.
■ Humans have made unprecedented changes to ecosystems in recent decades to meet growing demands
for food, fresh water, fiber, and energy.
■ These changes have helped to improve the lives of billions, but at the same time they weakened nature’s ability to deliver other key services such as purification of air and water, protection from disasters, and
the provision of medicines.
■ Among the outstanding problems identified by this assessment are the dire state of many of the
world’s fish stocks; the intense vulnerability of the 2 billion people living in dry regions to the loss of
ecosystem services, including water supply; and the growing threat to ecosystems from climate change
and nutrient pollution.
■ Human activities have taken the planet to the edge of a massive wave of species extinctions, further threatening our own well-being.
■ The loss of services derived from ecosystems is a significant barrier to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty, hunger, and disease.
■ The pressures on ecosystems will increase globally in coming decades unless human attitudes and
■ Measures to conserve natural resources are more likely to succeed if local communities are given
ownership of them, share the benefits, and are involved in decisions.
■ Even today’s technology and knowledge can reduce considerably the human impact on ecosystems.
They are unlikely to be deployed fully, however, until ecosystem services cease to be perceived as free and limitless, and their full value is taken into account.
■ Better protection of natural assets will require coordinated efforts across all sections of governments,
businesses, and international institutions. The productivity of ecosystems depends on policy choices on investment, trade, subsidy, taxation, and regulation, among others.
The report contains the following graphic illustrating the services provided by nine ecosystems. Click on the graphic for a larger and clearer view.