Ecosystem Services

Ecosystems provide services and benefits to society, for example, in the form of clean water protection from flooding, and food production. But these services and benefits are being increasingly challenged by growing demands for natural resources, housing and infrastucture from an increasing population, and affected by global change.

The recent National Ecosystem Assessment was the first national-scale attempt to analyses the value of the UK’s natural environment by taking account of the economic, health and social benefits we get from nature, is the first of its kind at a fully national scale. It found amongst other things that:

  • The ecosystem services are consistently undervalued in conventional economic analyses and decision making.
  • Ecosystems and ecosystem services have changed markedly in the past 60 years due to societal change, and that although some of the UK’s ecosystems are currently delivering services well, others are in long-term decline.
  • The UK population growth, combined with climate change, is likely to increase pressures on ecosystem services.
  • Actions taken now will have consequences far into the future for ecosystems, ecosystem
    services and human well-being, so it is important that these are understood.
  • Sustainable development requires a mixture of regulations, technology, investment and education, as well as changes in behaviour and  more integrated approachs to ecosystem management.

The Natural Environment Research Council is just starting to invest in a six-year programme of research into Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability (BESS). The BESS Programme will adress three themes on the relationship between bidoversity and ecosystem services, resiliance of ecosystem services to change, and monitoring and evaluation of ecosystem services. As an important Natural Environment research Council initiative, EVO will be working closely with the BESS programme to ensure that appropriate cloud technologies and tools will be available.

The Natural Environment Research Council is also co-funding an programme of work to improve our understanding of how ecosystem function and services can be used to achieve sustainable poverty reduction through the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation Programme.