Ecosystem Services

Ecosystems, such as forests, wetlands and lakes comprise all the organisms present in the area along with their physical, or abiotic environment and their mutual interactions. The benefits that people obtain from sound ecosystems, like fresh water, food, clean air, natural medicines etc. are called "ecosystem services". These form the basis for human life and can be classified in provisioning, regulating, and cultural services that directly affect people, and the supporting services needed to maintain other services. Many of these services are closely inter-linked as it is illustrated in the graph below.


    • Supporting services are the basis for the production of all other ecosystem services and differ from provisioning, regulating and cultural services in that their impacts on people are often indirect or occur over a very long period of time.

    • Provisioning services are the products obtained from ecosystems such as food, fibre, fuel, genetic resources, biochemicals, natural medicines, pharmaceuticals and ornamental resources.

    • Regulating services ecosystem processes regulate air quality, climate, disease, pests, pollination, erosion, etc. Ecosystems can help filter out and decompose organic waste introduced into inland waters and coastal and marine ecosystems providing water purification and waste treatment services. They can also assimilate and detoxify compounds through soil and subsoil processes. Water flow is regulated by ecosystems, both in timing and magnitude of runoff and aquifer recharge.

    • Cultural services are the non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment; cognitive development reflection, recreation, inspiration and aesthetic experiences; social relations; and educational and cultural heritage values.

Headers and keywords
Page content

   < Previous    Next >


Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)