Despite our ingenuity and technology, the human species is totally reliant on the world's natural and human altered ecosystems to provide oxygenated air, clean water, food, fiber, and raw materials for both building and producing medicines.
The raw materials needed to sustain human life, such as air, food, water, wood, and medicinal products, as well as processes that maintain and regenerate these goods, such as waste assimilation, water and nutrient cycling, and soil formation, can be thought of as ecosystem services.
Ecosystem services are naturally produced by the processes and functions of ecosystems and provide the raw materials and hospitable environment required to sustain human life. The concept of ecosystem services evolved out of a union between the disciplines of ecology and economics. Much of the research into ecosystem services is based on the determining their economic value, in order to use and manage ecosystems and their products more sustainably and effectively.
In the following subsections on ecosystem services we will
- Define ecosystem services and identify the types of services
provided by natural systems
- Discuss the production of ecosystem services
- Overview the valuation of ecosystem services,
- Identify causes and consequences of loosing ecosystem services, and
- Consider how the ecosystem services concept can contribute to sustainable resource management.
Next topic: What are ecosystem services?