Ecosystem Services

Biological diversity, in the form of functioning ecosystems, contributes to different agricultural production activities, e.g. through the participation of organisms in soil regeneration or in preventing soil erosion. In addition, micro-organisms transform the nutrients contained in soil, such as nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus, into a form that is useable by higher plants. Furthermore, ecosystem have the capacity to act as sinks for various waste products that are absorbed and then transformed by decomposers into harmless, or even reusable, substances. Ecosystems also perform global life-sustaining functions, e.g. maintaining the composition of the atmosphere, converting solar energy into biomass, regulating hydrological cycles, or regulating local and global climate. 

To a great extent, the long-term efficiency of ecosystems depends on specific components of natural biological diversity that are presently just partly known. However, a study by Santiago Soliveres et al. points out that, to maintain the functionality of ecosystem services, biodiversity must be guaranteed in various trophic levels of an ecosystem. But as long as this knowledge remains incomplete, a wide aligned conservation of biodiversity may be justified by the assumption that selective conservation measures will prove insufficient with regard to the long-term goal of securing the reliability of ecosystems.

The following types of ecosystem services can be distinguished:

Biodiversity_Ecosystem Services
© Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

Fig. 3: Ecosystem Services - based on the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005): Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Synthesis Report. Washington DC: Island Press.  Online Version (Englisch)

Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2006): Global Biodiversity Outlook 2. Montreal, 2.  Online Version (Englisch)

Santiago Soliveres et al. (2016): Biodiversity at multiple trophic levels is needed for ecosystem multifunctionality. Nature Online Version (Englisch)

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