Nature and ecosystems offer a myriad of services that impact upon human wellbeing, and are essential for our way of life. They provide us with food, water, clean air, a stable climate, medicines and building materials.
Nature is a treasure-trove of wealth. But because we don't pay for it directly, we don't realise how valuable it is and we wastefully destroy more of it every day.
An area of forest provides benefits to humans that completely eclipse the value placed on them by prices in logging markets. There are provisioning services, such as food and fresh water; regulating services, such as climate regulation and flood defence; and cultural benefits, like recreation, tourism, education and aesthetic appreciation. There are also supporting services, such as soil formation and nutrient cycling that in turn help to maintain the ecosystems themselves.
Each of these services provides unique and individual benefits to people, linking human wellbeing and nature. However, our current political and economic planning processes tend to focus on one service, without thinking about the full range of services and benefits over time.
A comprehensive ecosystems services approach needs to be integrated in decision making both in terms of accurately measuring the scientific characteristics of wildlife, and in terms of measuring the impacts of these characteristics on human wellbeing.
Our report: Naturally, at your service provides a detailed introduction to ecosystems services, and the economic approach to valuing their contribution to wellbeing. It also provides an assessment of the interaction of ecosystem services with biodiversity and poverty, and features a number of case studies performed by the RSPB valuing certain services.