Posted by: Dan | December 9, 2008

What Are Ecosystem Services

Via Action Bioscience, a very educational primer on Ecosystem services reprinted from a factsheet from the Ecological Society of America:

Natural ecosystems and the plants and animals within them provide humans with services that would be very difficult to duplicate. While it is often impossible to place an accurate monetary amount on ecosystem services, we can calculate some of the financial values. Many of these services are performed seemingly for “free,” yet are worth many trillions of dollars, for example:

  • Much of the Mississippi River Valley’s natural flood protection services were destroyed when adjacent wetlands were drained and channels altered. As a result, the 1993 floods resulted in property damages estimated at twelve billion dollars partially from the inability of the Valley to lessen the impacts of the high volumes of water.
  • 80% of the world’s population relies upon natural medicinal products. Of the top 150 prescription drugs used in the U.S., 118 originate from natural sources: 74% from plants, 18% from fungi, 5% from bacteria, and 3% from one vertebrate (snake species). Nine of the top 10 drugs originate from natural plant products.
  • Over 100,000 different animal species — including bats, bees, flies, moths, beetles, birds, and butterflies — provide free pollination services. One third of human food comes from plants pollinated by wild pollinators. The value of pollination services from wild pollinators in the U.S. alone is estimated at four to six billion dollars per year.

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