What are ecosystem services and what are they potentially worth?

Above: Image © Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Question

What are ecosystem services and what are they potentially worth?

Answer

Ecosystem goods and services can be defined as benefits that humans obtain from ecosystems. These benefits include those that have obvious financial value to humans: the provision of food and water, the regulation of floods and diseases, and cultural and recreational benefits. In addition, it has recently become widely recognized that ecosystems also provide services that are critical for supporting life on the planet, but that are harder to place a financial value on. These benefits include, for example, nutrient cycling and climate regulation. Environmentalists, scholars and the World Health Organization worry that government policies and land management practices that fail to place enough value on ecosystems services will lead to serious economic, social and ecological damage. It has therefore become a major focus of several environmental groups around the world, as well as right here in BC, to educate the public and the government on how to properly value ecosystem services. One local project is the Mountain Caribou Project (www.mountaincaribou.org ). Mountain caribou are an endangered species whose habitats have been severely impacted by forestry practices. The project,s aim is to advocate for the recovery of the population of mountain caribou that live in south-eastern BC. People involved in this project, including Lawrence Redfern the Outreach Coordinator, are lobbying the BC government to protect the caribou,s habitat. They argue that because mountain caribou are an umbrella species, protecting their habitat will also protect other species that depend on the same habitat. It seems many people have started to recognize the importance and value of ecosystem services, including the mountain caribou; more than 12,000 letters were sent to the BC government in support of a mountain caribou recovery plan!

Answered By: Dr. Christine

To read more about ecosystem services, see the article: Ecosystem Services-Natural landscapes in the city on CurioCity.

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