Our health and wellbeing depends
upon the services provided by ecosystems and their
components: water, soil, nutrients and organisms.
Therefore, ecosystem services are the processes
by which the environment produces resources utlilised
by humans such as clean air, water, food and materials.
Ecosystem services can be defined in various ways.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment provided the
most comprehensive assessment of the state of
the global environment to date; it classified
ecosystem services as follows:
- Supporting services:
The services that are necessary for the production
of all other ecosystem services including soil
formation, photosynthesis, primary production,
nutrient cycling and water cycling.
The products obtained from ecosystems, including
food, fibre, fuel, genetic resources, biochemicals,
natural medicines, pharmaceuticals, ornamental
resources and fresh water;
- Regulating services:
The benefits obtained from the regulation of
ecosystem processes, including air quality regulation,
climate regulation, water regulation, erosion
regulation, water purification, disease regulation,
pest regulation, pollination, natural hazard
- Cultural services:
The non-material benefits people obtain from
ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive
development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic
experiences – thereby taking account of landscape
The application of ecosystem services in the
UK is at an early stage and Catchment Futures,
together with other research studies is seeking
to investigate this approach.