GOVERNANCE CONSUMPTION ECOSYSTEM SERVICES GLOBALISATION
SUSTAINABILITY INDICES URBAN SUSTAINABILITY GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE

Understanding Nature's Benefits
Nature provides humans with what they need to survive. These services include many things we take for granted, like trees purifying air, wetlands filtering water and bees pollinating crops. Though the Earth's benefits seem free, they have enormous value that often are unaccounted for. Pricing these assets can be difficult, especially in high-paced modern society, hence the factoring in of nature can lead to more informed decision making and management of these natural resources. More often than not, it is cost-efficient to allow nature to
produce these vital ecosystem-related services (e.g. water and air purification), versus human intervention and environmentally-related engineering. Allowing for the growth of resilient ecosystems to do the work they were meant to do, invests in community resilience and relating challenges like climate change, drought and population growth. The Centre is on the forefront of understanding ecosystem services approaches to complex, interconnected problems. We examine a number of tools that evaluate nature and try to express a co-existence based understanding of looking at environmental challenges.

Ecosystem Services Categories
1. Provisioning Services are ecosystem services that describe the material or energy outputs from ecosystems. They include food, water and other resources.
     ▪ Food: Ecosystems provide the conditions for growing food. Food comes principally from managed
       agro-ecosystems but marine and freshwater systems or forests also provide food for human
       consumption. Wild foods from forests are often underestimated.

     ▪ Raw materials: Ecosystems provide a great diversity of materials for construction and fuel including
       wood,
biofuels and plant oils that are directly derived from wild and cultivated plant species.
     ▪ Fresh water: Ecosystems play a vital role in the global hydrological cycle, as they regulate the flow and
      
purification of water. Vegetation and forests influence the quantity of water available locally.
     ▪ Medicinal resources: Ecosystems and biodiversity provide many plants used as traditional medicines as
       well
as providing the raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry. All ecosystems are a potential 
       source of
medicinal resources.
 
2. Regulating Services are the services that ecosystems provide by acting as regulators eg. regulating the quality of air and soil or by providing flood and disease control.
     ▪ Local climate and air quality: Trees provide shade whilst forests influence rainfall and water availability
       both
locally and regionally. Trees or other plants also play an important role in regulating air quality by
       removing
pollutants from the atmosphere.
     ▪ Carbon sequestration and storage: Ecosystems regulate the global climate by storing and sequestering
       greenhouse gases. As trees and plants grow, they remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and
       effectively
lock it away in their tissues. In this way forest ecosystems are carbon stores. Biodiversity
       also plays an
important role by improving the capacity of ecosystems to adapt to the effects of climate
       change.

     ▪ Moderation of extreme events: Extreme weather events or natural hazards include floods, storms,
       tsunamis,
avalanches and landslides. Ecosystems and living organisms create buffers against natural
       disasters, thereby
preventing possible damage. For example, wetlands can soak up flood water whilst
       trees can stabilise
slopes. Coral reefs and mangroves help protect coastlines from storm damage.
     ▪ Waste-water treatment: Ecosystems such as wetlands filter both human and animal waste and act as
       a
natural buffer to the surrounding environment. Through the biological activity of microorganisms in the
       soil,
most waste is broken down. Thereby pathogens (disease causing microbes) are eliminated, and the
       level of
nutrients and pollution is reduced.
     ▪ Erosion prevention and maintenance of soil fertility: Soil erosion is a key factor in the process of land
       degradation and desertification. Vegetation cover provides a vital regulating service by preventing soil
       erosion.
Soil fertility is essential for plant growth and agriculture and well functioning ecosystems supply
       the soil with
nutrients required to support plant growth.
     ▪ Pollination: Insects and wind pollinate plants and trees which is essential for the development of fruits,
       vegetables and seeds. Animal pollination is an ecosystem service mainly provided by insects but also by
       some
birds and bats. Some 87 out of the 115 leading global food crops depend upon animal pollination
       including
important cash crops such as cocoa and coffee (Klein et al., 2007).
     ▪ Biological control: Ecosystems are important for regulating pests and vector borne diseases that attack
       plants, animals and people. Ecosystems regulate pests and diseases through the activities of predators
       and
parasites. Birds, bats, flies, wasps, frogs and fungi all act as natural controls.

3. Habitat or Supporting Services
     ▪ Habitats for species: Habitats provide everything that an individual plant or animal needs to survive:
       food,
water and shelter. Each ecosystem provides different habitats that can be essential for a species’
       life cycle.
Migratory species including birds, fish, mammals and insects all depend upon different
       ecosystems during
their movements.
     ▪ Maintenance of genetic diversity: Genetic diversity is the variety of genes between and within species
       populations. Genetic diversity distinguishes different breeds or races from each other thus providing the
       basis
for locally well-adapted cultivars and a gene pool for further developing commercial crops and
       livestock. Some
habitats have an exceptionally high number of species which makes them more
       genetically diverse than
others and are known as biodiversity hotspots.

4. Cultural Services

     ▪ Recreation and mental and physical health: Walking and playing sports in green space is not only a good
       form
of physical exercise but also lets people relax. The role that green space plays in maintaining mental
       and
physical health is increasingly being recognised, despite difficulties of measurement.
     ▪ Tourism: Ecosystems and biodiversity play an important role for many kinds of tourism which in turn
       provides
considerable economic benefits and is a vital source of income for many countries. In 2008
       global earnings
from tourism summed up to US$ 944 billion. Cultural and ecotourism can also educate
       people about the
importance of biological diversity.
     ▪ Aesthetic appreciation and inspiration for culture, art and design: Language, knowledge and the natural
       environment have been intimately related throughout human history. Biodiversity, ecosystems and natural

       landscapes have been the source of inspiration for much of our art, culture and increasingly for science.
     ▪ Spiritual experience and sense of place: In many parts of the world natural features such as specific
       forests,
caves or mountains are considered sacred or have a religious meaning. Nature is a common
       element of all
major religions and traditional knowledge, and associated customs are important for
       creating a sense of
belonging.

Reference
Klein, A. M., Vaissiere, B. E., Cane, J. H., Steffan-Dewenter, I., Cunningham, S. A., Kremen, C., and Tscharntke, T. (2007). “Importance of Pollinators in Changing Landscapes for World Crops”, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 274(1608): 303-313.