There are no translations available.
The impairment of ecosystem services to society : an increasingly crucial problem
Human societies derive many essential goods from agro-ecosystems (food) as well as from natural ecosystems (seafood, timber, pharmaceutical products …) representing important parts of the economy. What has been less appreciated until recently is these ecosystems also perform fundamental life-support services without which human civilizations would cease to thrive. These include the purification of air and water, detoxification and decomposition of wastes, regulation of climate, regeneration of soil fertility, and production and maintenance of biodiversity, from which key ingredients of our agricultural, pharmaceutical, and industrial enterprises are derived. These ecosystem services essential to civilization operate on such a grand scale and in such intricate and little-explored ways that most could not be replaced by technology (Daily et al. 1997, Issues in Ecology 2:1-16)
Ecosystem services are being impaired and destroyed by a wide variety of human activities (Vitousek, Mooney et al. 1997). The alteration of the Earth's carbon, nitrogen, and other biogeochemical cycles through the burning of fossil fuels, the destruction of habitats, and heavy use of nitrogen fertilizer is an ongoing direct threat to ecosystem services. Their indirect effect through climate changes will have even larger consequences. The loss and modification of biodiversity which accompany these changes have also significant negative impact on ecosystem services.
There is a need for policies that achieve a balance between sustaining ecosystem services and pursuing the worthy short-term goals of economic development. However, it is impossible to devise effective environmental policy unless it is based on sound scientific information. While major advances have been made in many areas, large gaps in our knowledge remain. Predicting the responses of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning to current environmental changes and their feedback on climate is still a very tentative task.