16 May 2014

Ecosystem services under the microscope

Ecosystem approaches can be defined as ’approaches to environmental management and policy making that aim to compare costs and benefits of management and policy options on the basis of an analysis of their impacts on the supply of benefits from ecosystems to people’.

The benefits supplied by ecosystems to people have been labelled ‘ecosystem services’ (MA, 2003; TEEB, 2010) and comprise such benefits as the provisioning of goods by ecosystems (e.g. wood, fish, genetic information), the regulation of environmental processes (e.g. water purification by wetlands, carbon sequestration in forests) and cultural services supplied by ecosystems (e.g. providing opportunities for recreation). The capacities of ecosystems to supply such services can be affected by air pollution and other types of environmental stress.

Ecosystem degradation, for instance through air pollution, evokes a cost expressed through a reduced supply of ecosystem services, and ecosystem rehabilitation through reduction of air pollution may lead to economic benefits through enhanced ecosystem services supply.