Services | Ecosystem Services

The concept of ecosystem services has been developed to aid our understanding of the human use and management of natural resources.

Our health and wellbeing depends upon the services provided by ecosystems and their components: water, soil, nutrients and organisms. Therefore, ecosystem services are the processes by which the environment produces resources used by humans such as clean air, water, food and materials (http://www.ecosystemservices.org.uk). Some such services, such as pollination by bees and the role of upland peatlands in the storage of carbon, have had a high profile in the UK recently.

Ecosystem services can be defined in various ways.  The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (http://www.maweb.org/en/index.aspx) provided the most comprehensive assessment of the state of the global environment to date; it classified ecosystem services as follows:

  • Supporting services:  The services that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services including soil formation, photosynthesis, primary production, nutrient cycling and water cycling;
  • Provisioning services:  The products obtained from ecosystems, including food, fibre, fuel, genetic resources, biochemicals, natural medicines, pharmaceuticals, ornamental resources and fresh water;
  • Regulating services:  The benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes, including air quality regulation, climate regulation, water regulation, erosion regulation, water purification, disease regulation, pest regulation, pollination, natural hazard regulation;
  • Cultural services:  The non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experiences – thereby taking account of landscape values.

The application of ecosystem services in the UK is at an early stage but at Peak Ecology, we are very interested in particular, in how assessments of ecosystem services can be captured within Ecological Impact Assessment.

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