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What are ecosystem services?

Ecosystem services are the benefits that nature provides for people. Usually not monetized and taken for granted, they maintain living conditions on Earth and improve human quality of life. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) classified ecosystem services into the following categories:

 provisioning regulating cultural ecosystem services


provisioning services – products obtained from ecosystems (food, such as crops, fruit, fish, fuel and fiber, such as timber and wool, biochemicals, natural medicines, pharmaceuticals, genetic resources for plant/animal breeding and biotechnology and ornamental resources such as flowers, shells etc.)

regulating services – benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes (maintenance or air quality, climate and water regulation, erosion control, water purification and
detoxification, natural hazard protection and bioremediation of waste)

ecosystem services society economy graph

cultural services – the non-material benefits that people obtain through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, recreation etc. (spiritual and religious value, insporation for art, social relations, aesthetic values, cultural heritige values, recreation and ecotourism)

supporting services – the services that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services (soil formation and retention, water cycling, nutrient cycling, primary production, production of atmospheric oxygen and provision of habitat). The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment concluded that 15 out of the 24 measured ecosystem services are in serious decline, only 4 are improving and 5 are stable but threatened in some parts of the globe.

Loss of ecosystem services has powerful impacts on our economy and society! Loss of ecosystem services negatively impacts our economy, while economic poverty is often the main cause of resource overexploitation and unsustainable use of the environment. Loss of ecosystem services and degradation of natural capital further impoverishes disadvantaged societies. Economic inequality in turn reaffirms societal instability and dysfunction.