A1.1.3 Ecosystem Services


An ecosystem is a dynamic complex of plant, animal, and microorganism communities and the nonliving environment, interacting as a functional unit. Humans are an integral part of ecosystems.

Ecosystem services are the benefits that we get from natural ecosystems. These include filtering pollution, providing food, timber and other resources, giving us health and recreational benefits and regulating the flow of water.

The United Nations ‘Millennium Ecosystem Assessment’ grouped ecosystem services into four broad categories:

  1. Provisioning, such as the production of food and water.
  2. Regulating, such as the control of climate and disease.
  3. Supporting, such as nutrient cycles and crop pollination.
  4. Cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits.


1. Provisioning

  • Food (including seafood and game), crops, wild foods, and spices
  • Water
  • Minerals (including diatomite)
  • Pharmaceuticals, biochemicals, and industrial products
  • Energy (hydropower, biomass fuels)


2. Regulating

  • Carbon sequestration and climate regulation
  • Waste decomposition and detoxification
  • Purification of water and air
  • Crop pollination
  • Pest & disease control
  • Flood control


3. Supporting

Sometimes referred to as “Habitat services”

  • Nutrient dispersal and cycling
  • Seed dispersal
  • Primary production


4. Cultural

  • Cultural, intellectual and spiritual inspiration
  • Recreational experiences (including ecotourism)
  • Scientific discovery