ECOSYSTEM SERVICES: what they are, types and examples - Summary!

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The environment exists without the human being, but the human being not without it. Since the first Homo sapiens, the species has interacted with ecosystems to meet our needs and reach what is today our civilization. Our relationship with the environment can be analyzed from various perspectives. One of them is from the point of view of ecosystem services, where the link between nature and society and how we benefit from it is analyzed.

If you want to know what are the ecosystem services, also called ecosystem services or environmental services, delve with us in this Green Ecologist article about what are ecosystem services, their types and examples, as well as its importance.

What are ecosystem services or environmental services

Ecosystem services (ES) can also be named as ecosystem or environmental services. The definition of ecosystem services, ecosystem services or environmental services The most widely used and accepted is the one proposed by the UN in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment) in 2005, being the benefits that ecosystems bring to humans to be realized in all its facets. These benefits can be received in the form of values (cultural service), goods (provisioning service) or service (regulation service). The following section will explain in more detail which are the 4 ecosystem services.

It is common not to appreciate the weight that SEs have when living in urban and suburban centers, which align us when it comes to observing how ecosystems guarantee our existence. Conflicts arise due to the multiple benefits received by the different social agents that make use of these ES. Take as an example the clearing of a forest for the production of wood or the cultivation of cereals for some agricultural entrepreneurs. This change affects small producers who used it to feed their livestock, obtain firewood, food or traditional medicines.

Types of ecosystem services

The Millennium Assessment classification of the environmental services or ecosystemic proposes dividing them into four classes: support, provisioning, regulation and cultural.

The supporting ecosystem service

It corresponds to those ecological processes that are vital for the production of the other three SE.

  • Water cycle
  • Soil formation
  • Primary production
  • Photosynthesis
  • Species habitat
  • Conservation of genetic diversity
  • Nutrient cycle

The provisioning ecosystem service

It stands out for being formed from those products extracted from the environment to be consumed or used, being:

  • Food
  • Water (agriculture and consumption)
  • Energy resources (firewood, peat, lignite …)
  • Raw Materials
  • Minerals
  • Genetic resources
  • Medicinal resources

The ecosystem service of regulation

They include those ecological processes that benefit us through their regulatory system, help to mitigate some global and local impacts.

  • Climate regulation
  • Regulation in the water cycle
  • Improved air quality
  • Erosion control
  • Damage reduction in natural disasters
  • Disease and pest control
  • Maintenance of soil fertility
  • Regulation and sanitation of water.
  • Pollination

The cultural ecosystem service

They are those non-material benefits that human beings obtain through ecosystems. They are more abstract concepts that make us realize.

  • Educational value
  • Cultural diversity
  • Source of inspiration
  • Spirituality and religious values
  • Aesthetic value
  • Social relationships
  • Rooting or belonging
  • Cultural heritage
  • Recreational and ecotourism services
  • Scientific knowledge

Sometimes it is difficult to enclose a service in a single group, some can be several types of environmental services at the same time. For example, fresh water can be classified in the four, of support by the water cycle, of provision by consumption, of regulation by the purification and control of the water cycle and cultural, for example by the recreational use that it contributes.

Examples of ecosystem services

Some examples of specific ecosystem services are:

  • The pollination is one of the clearest examples of environmental services in regulation. Much of the vegetable, fruit and seed crops need to be pollinated by pollinating insects, such as bees, to transport pollen and promote fertilization.
  • Another SE of regulation is he pest control in the agriculture. Ecosystems regulate themselves through the biodiversity of species and the interaction between them. The richer the ecosystem, the more control there will be between the species that compose it. Monocultures favor the appearance of pests as there is a large area of only the same species, making it more vulnerable to the appearance of pests. It makes the use of agrochemicals more necessary, with their associated consequences on the environment.
  • Thanks to the photosynthesis, Campus medium, vegetable biomass is produced that can be approached as a value, good or service. Whether as food, raw material, energy resource, medicinal resource, aesthetic value, improvement of air quality, climate regulator as it is a carbon sink, among other environmental services.

The importance of ecosystem services

Due to human action (direct or indirect) and biological and geological processes, ecosystems undergo changes. The different social agents will face these changes differently for economic, cultural and socio-political reasons. Which implies that it does not have an equitable and homogeneous impact on all social agents. These differences can be found between countries and within the same country. The adaptive strategy must be sought so that all social agents benefit.

They are indicators of the quality of the interaction we have with the environment. Decision-making and environmental policies must be carried out based on them. This would facilitate obtaining tools to mitigate climate change by identifying existing management options, preventing costs and possible risks for ecosystems and different societies, and optimizing social improvements. That is why the correct use of environmental services provides great economic, social, political, religious and cultural benefits.

If you want to read more articles similar to Ecosystem services: what they are, types and examples, we recommend that you enter our Ecosystems category.

  • Camacho Valdez and Ruiz Luna (2011) Conceptual framework and classification of ecosystem services. Biociencias Magazine:
  • Quétier, Fabien, Tapella, Esteban, Conti, Georgina, Cáceres, Daniel, Díaz, Sandra Ecosystem services and social actors. Conceptual and methodological aspects for an interdisciplinary study. Ecological Gazette [online]. 2007, (84-85), 17-26 [Consultation date August 20, 2022]. ISSN: 1405-2849. Available at:
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