Ecosystem Services

The definition

Let’s first clarify what Ecosystem Services are!

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005) defines Ecosystem Services as “the benefits people derive from ecosystems“. Based on the CBD, they illustrate the link between, on the one hand, the interactions of species with each other and with the physical environment; and on the other, the well-being of people, whether in terms of wealth, nutrition or security.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment divides ecosystem services into four categories contributing to human well-being. They are summarized in the figure below:

ecosystem services

Why should we care?

Through human activities and population growth, many ecosystems have been degraded in order to meet the rapidly increasing demand for food, fresh water, timber and fuel.

« Over the past 50 years, through increased population growth and climate change humans consumed and degraded biodiversity and ecosystems more rapidly than at any other time in human history. » – (IUCN, 2012)

These degradations are likely to increase the risk of abrupt and irreversible changes in our environment such as disease emergence, abrupt alterations in water quality, the creation of “dead zones” in coastal waters, the collapse of fisheries, and shifts in regional climate (Millennium Ecosystem Assesment, 2005).

Finally, the harmful effects of the degradation of ecosystems are being borne disproportionately by the poor, are contributing to growing inequities and disparities across groups of people, and are sometimes the principal factor causing poverty and social conflict. (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005).

Our vision

Given that 60% of these services are currently threatened by human activities (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005), it appears important to us to increase people’s awareness on the major benefits that the preservation of ecosystems’ functioning represents. The notion of ecosystem services implies that people are integral parts of ecosystems and have a role to play in their management. Hence, the numerous local initiatives for preserving and conserving them launched all over the world. However, these initiatives often lack coverage by the mainstream media and consequently knowledge of these initiatives is not widespread. Based on this observation, our project aims to promote such local initiatives. In consequence, we would like to meet the different actors involved in the maintenance of such equilibrium: from the peasant to the researcher, as well as public institutions and NGOs.

Finally, it is essential for us to discover the wide variety of places where ecosystem services are operating: in urban areas, where humans are omnipresent, as well as hundreds of kilometers away from cities, where humans seem to be absent. The itinerary we chose, the Panamericana road, will offer this diversity of landscapes, cultures and issues. In other words, traveling will also be the opportunity for us to get a better understand of the scope of the problem.

Picture Caption: Study on the impact of climate change on wood quality