Morning at the Westensee near Kiel
and Outlook

Ecosystem Services

Ecosystems are characterised by complex networks of interactions not only among and between species, but also between organisms and their abiotic and biotic environments. In the pursuit of life, organisms use energy, water, and nutrients; acquire, metabolise, and produce biomass; change the biological, chemical, and physical conditions of their environment. Such processes are essential components of any ecosystem as they contribute in one way or another to its maintainance. In turn, ecosystems provide numerous “goods” and “services” from which their members profit.

Humans are one part of ecosystems, and we derive benefits from ecosystems in various direct or indirect ways. These benefits are referred to as ecosystem services, whereby the term is often used in a broad sense, considering “goods”, “services” and “cultural services” together.

In view of the large number of different ecosystem services, it suggests itself for any discussion of the subject to categorise them into different groups. This can be done in different ways, e. g. by descriptive, functional, or organisational groupings. Here, we will adopt the concept used by the Millenium Assessment which is based on a functional classification scheme that comprises the four categories provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting services:

Provisoining Services Regulating Services Cultural Services Supporting Services

As indicated in the figure above, ecosystems provide a broad range of services: From obvious goods such as food, water, atmosphere, and other raw materials that are necessary for human subsistence to rather abstract benefits such as opportunities for recreation and leisure or the satisfaction of aesthetic needs.

by Kristina Boeckh & Aiko Huckauf – 2006-07-27