Field et al., 2016

Paper/Book

Understanding ecosystem services from a geosciences perspective

Field J.P., Breshears D.D., Law D.J., Villegas J.C., López-Hoffman L., Brooks P.D., Chorover J., and Pelletier J.D. (2016)
EOS 97  

Abstract

Ecological, geomorphic, geochemical, and hydrologic processes affect supplies of water, food, and other ecosystem services over longer time periods and greater areas than those generally accounted for in resource management decisions. Credit: P.D. Brooks

Ecological, geomorphic, geochemical, and hydrologic processes affect supplies of water, food, and other ecosystem services over longer time periods and greater areas than those generally accounted for in resource management decisions. Credit: P.D. Brooks

Human societies depend greatly on the natural environment in many ways: for food production, water supplies, erosion and flood control, and recreational opportunities, for example. However, the linkages between human societies and these benefits they derive from the environment have not always been considered explicitly when managing natural resources. To understand these linkages so that benefits from the environment can be more effectively managed, the framework of “ecosystem services” has emerged as a useful approach.

The benefits that society derives from the environment have been described in many ways, with ecosystem services initially classified into four distinct categories [Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005]:

  • Provisioning services are material benefits to humans, such as fiber, food, or timber.
  • Regulating services are processes such as pollination, flood control, and disease control.
  • Supporting services include nutrient cycling and soil formation.
  • Cultural services are those aspects of species and ecosystems that provide humans with recreational, spiritual, or religious experiences.

An example of an ecosystem service critical to society is provision of water of sufficient quantity, timing, and quality for drinking and other human requirements. A traditional ecosystem services perspective focuses on relating active vegetation management (e.g., forest thinning) or vegetation change due to disturbance (e.g., fire, insect, or drought mortality) to water resources, often emphasizing precipitation, soil moisture, and surface water flows while not necessarily considering other influential processes [e.g., Alila et al., 2009]. Read more >>

Citation

Field J.P., Breshears D.D., Law D.J., Villegas J.C., López-Hoffman L., Brooks P.D., Chorover J., and Pelletier J.D. (2016): Understanding ecosystem services from a geosciences perspective. EOS 97. DOI: 10.1029/2016EO043591

This Paper/Book acknowledges NSF CZO grant support.