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What's the worry?  Ecosystems are for kids. | by woodleywonderworks
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What's the worry? Ecosystems are for kids.

Anyone can manage an ecosystem. Besides, if anything goes wrong, we'll always have the dominos.



Humankind benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems. Collectively, these benefits are known as ecosystem services and include products like clean drinking water and processes such as the decomposition of wastes. Ecosystem services are distinct from other ecosystem products and functions because there is human demand for these natural assets. Services can be subdivided into five categories: provisioning such as the production of food and water; regulating, such as the control of climate and disease; supporting, such as nutrient cycles and crop pollination; cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits; and preserving, which includes guarding against uncertainty through the maintenance of diversity.

As human populations grow, so do the resource demands imposed on ecosystems and the impacts of our global footprint. Many people have been plagued with the misconception that these ecosystem services are free, invulnerable and infinitely available. However, the impacts of anthropogenic use and abuse are becoming evermore apparent – air and water quality are increasingly compromised, oceans are being over-fished, pests and diseases are extending beyond their historical boundaries, deforestation is eliminating flood control around human settlements. It has been reported that approximately 40-50% of Earth’s ice-free land surface has been heavily transformed or degraded by anthropogenic activities, 66% of marine fisheries are either overexploited or at their limit, atmospheric CO2 has increased more than 30% since the advent of industrialization, and nearly 25% of Earth’s bird species have gone extinct in the last two thousand years [1]. Consequently, society is coming to realize that ecosystem services are not only threatened and limited, but that the pressure to evaluate trade-offs between immediate and long-term human needs is urgent. To help inform decision-makers, economic value is increasingly associated with many ecosystem services and often based on the cost of replacement with anthropogenically-driven alternatives. The on-going challenge of prescribing economic value to nature is prompting transdisciplinary shifts in how we recognize and manage the environment, social responsibility, business opportunities, and our future as a species.


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Taken on January 17, 2009