In 2001, more than 1,300 scientists, economists, business professionals, and other experts from 95 countries began an analysis of ecosystems worldwide. Their findings, published in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in 2005, provide an in-depth look at the state of ecosystems and the services they provide. Ecosystem services are the benefits humans receive from ecosystems such as food, erosion control, water quantity and quality, and flood protection.
Why should we care?
According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 60% (15 out of 24 surveyed) of the world’s ecosystem services have been degraded over the past 50 years. These trends matter because the well-being of society depends on functioning ecosystems. We also rely on functioning ecosystems for benefits from flood control to pollination, pest control, and recreation. Businesses and cities rely on water quality improvements by wetlands, farmers depend on pollination services and nutrient cycling, and the global community relies on climate regulation.
Since many ecosystem services are received for free, we often take them for granted until the ecosystem is degraded and the services are declining or at risk. Decision-makers and institutions need to develop creative ways of protecting ecosystem services, including incentives and new regulatory structures.
A number of SNRE faculty consider ecosystem services in their research. The research spans ecosystem services provided by rangelands, wetlands, forests, and wildlife, to climate change impacts on ecosystem services to the U.S. federal and state policy regarding ecosystem services.