Ecosystem services are the benefits to humans that result from ecosystem functions and processes, such as:
• Biogeochemical and nutrient cycling
• Natural pest control by predators
• Pollination by insects, bats, and birds
• Decomposition of biomass, wastes, and pollution
• Soil formation, retention, and maintenance of soil fertility
• Carbon sequestration and climate regulation
Ecosystem services are one of three general types of benefits that biodiversity provides to humans, the others being ecosystem products, and non-material benefits. Interest in ecosystem services is growing rapidly, and development donors, government agencies, and conservation organizations are jumping on the “bandwagon.”
This concept has the potential to contribute something new to sustainable economic development and to the conservation of nature and biodiversity across multiple-use landscapes. But, along with the dramatic rise in interest, there is considerable confusion about the concept of ecosystem services.
Lack of a clear and focused definition of ecosystem services will impede development of effective incentives and mechanisms for conserving them. Ecosystem services have ecological, economic, and governance characteristics that distinguish them from other types of benefits from nature, and we must pay attention to these special characteristics in order to develop practical mechanisms for their conservation.
Lack of conceptual clarity about the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services is also common. Some recent studies seem to treat biodiversity as a type of ecosystem service, rather than recognizing that it is the source of all ecosystem services. My work on conserving ecosystems seeks to clarify definitions and identify mechanisms for conserving these invaluable aspects of our planet’s life support systems.
• Ecosystem Services: What Do We Know and Where Should We Go? 2008
• Defining Ecosystems Services Presentation English Version, 2007
• Defining Ecosystem Services Presentation Spanish Version, 2007