Causes & consequences of losing ecosystem services

Despite human reliance on ecosystems and the services they provide many of our interactions with our environment can damage ecosystems and impair the services they provide.


Activity 1.3

Read the following short web articles / article sections and any additional information you find and answer the following questions:

Q1 What are the two broad underlying forces driving human induced threats to ecosystem services? Think of some ways that the effects of these two main forces could be reduced or produce a beneficial rather than detrimental effect on ecosystems.

Compare your ideas to ours

A1 Growth in the scale of human enterprise (population size, per-capita consumption, and effects of technology to produce goods).

A mismatch between short-term individual economic incentives and long-term, societal well-being.

Q2 List as many human activities as you can think of that disrupt, impair or reengineer ecosystems. Think of some specific ways that the impact of these activities could also be reduced.

It is important to stress at this point that although some of the negative impacts that humans have on the environment seem inevitable and irreversible, the functioning of many ecosystems could be restored if appropriate actions were taken.

Compare your ideas to ours

A2 Include as least:

  • Deforestation
  • Species extinction
  • Conversion of habitat to alternative landuse and habitat types
  • Introduction of exotic organisms (pests)
  • Removal of vegetation leading to erosion, salinity etc
  • Urban sprawl
  • Draining wetlands
  • Pollution
  • Broad scale use of chemicals that enter waterways etc
  • Enhanced greenhouse effect
  • Destruction of ozone by CFC’s etc

Unfortunately humans have many and varied negative effects on natural and human altered ecosystems.

Next - Module 2: Tropical savanna characteristics & determinants

Additional Resources

The "Millennium Ecosystem Assessment" website provides extensive resources on ecosystem services. We have made many of these available through e-reserve in the library.

Note: the powerpoint presentation "Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Findings" is particularly interesting and relevant to this module.