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November 17, 2016. Life / A Gift of Nature

The Wealth of Nature: Ecosystem Services

Without ecosystem services, our Earth would be as barren as Mars. The well-being of humanity is linked to the web of life with which we all share our only planet, justifying the strongest possible efforts to conserve all life on Earth

Gerardo Ceballos, Ph.D, Nigel J.Collar, Dr. Tracy Farrel, Barbara Goettsch, Vance Martin, Roderic Mast, Jeffrey A. McNeely, Cristina Goetsch Mittermeier, Russell A. Mittermeier, Fabian Oberfeld, Trevor Sandwith, Dr. Jane Smart, Dr. Richard Sneider, Gregory S. Stone & Michael P. Totten

Nature has created the world we occupy today.  For most of human history, people lived as just another part of nature, which provided every good and service people needed.

But over the past 10,000 years or so, the relationship between people and the rest of nature has changed. Through domestication of plants and animals, irrigation, construction, and industry, many cultures began to treat nature as an endless source of raw materials.

Today, we have forgotten how many of the comforts we enjoy and the products we use come to us from nature’s warehouse of services, and that we are spending down the capital of nature’s account.

Ecosystem services are the benefits that the functions of ecosystems provide to people.  The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment classified ecosystem services into 4 groups: supporting services, regulating services, provisioning services, and cultural services.

Supporting services are those ecosystem processes necessary for the delivery of all other ecosystem services—and, indeed, life on Earth itself.  These may or may not have direct implications into human well-being. They include biodiversity maintenance, the hydrological cycle, the nutrient cycle, and primary production.

Regulating services include maintaining a healthy climate, filtering the air we breathe, supporting healthy soils to enable plant growth, protecting communities against natural hazards, pollinating the crops we eat, and regulating disease.

The provisioning services provide us with food, forests, water, natural medicines, and much else besides.

But perhaps the most important ecosystem service is one that few people recognize: the cultural services that give us a sense of belonging, help define our culture, provide a basis for our religions, inspire works of art and teach us about our place in nature.

 

This is an excerpt from the CEMEX Conservation Series Books A GIFT OF NATURE (2012)

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A Gift of Nature

Twenty Years of Conservation & Photography

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