A family exploring the meadows at Labrador Bay, Devon, England.

How helping nature helps us

A healthy natural environment supports diverse wildlife and enhances our own lives in many ways.

Ecosystem services

The benefits of a healthy environment, so-called 'ecosystem services', range from the complex geological and biological processes which create soil and clean water, to providing inspiring landscapes and amazing wildlife spectacles.

These 'services' represent the bridge which links the natural world to human wellbeing, and any degradation of these services undermines our wealth and wellbeing.

Supporting, managing and even creating particular ecosystems in particular locations can not only help wildlife to thrive in its own right, but can help wildlife and society adapt to climate change. In some cases, this may be as simple as keeping ecosystems which provide existing benefits and which will become even more important in a climate changed world - for example, retaining woodland in urban settings, where the trees provide shade as well as cool the local environment.

In other cases, it may be necessary to change the way land is managed if we are to make best use of the environment's ability to help us cope with climate change – for example, some farming practices can alleviate the risk of major flooding impacts in a local area.

Climate adaptation options

Finally, there are situations where creating or re-creating ecosystems are cost-effective approaches to adaptation for people.

Take rising sea levels and increasingly strong winter storms. Compared with building manmade flood defences, re-creating inter-tidal habitat can be a much more cost-effective way of protecting against coastal erosion.

Retaining existing ecosystems helps support wildlife by protecting important habitat. Creating new ecosystems to provide services will support some wildlife, but by designing schemes with wildlife in mind, the gains for biodiversity can be significant.

Wildlife needs our help to adapt successfully to climate change, and by using nature's services to support our own adaptation to climate impacts, we can help wildlife, too.