Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ecosystem Services vs Biodiversity

I was just reading in Nature Conservancy magazine about the idea of "ecosystem services". The basic idea (or my oversimplification of it) is that a good way to sell people on the idea of conservation is to relate it to human needs - in other words, we should protect the ecosystem because it provides us with the services that we need.

The "opposite" of ecosystems services would be "biodiversity", or the idea that having a diversity of biology is a good thing, not necessarily just the biology that helps humans.

Apparently this is a debate of sorts in the conservation world. I can see both sides. But I think that the majority of people in the world, especially in developing countries, would more easily buy into conservation efforts if they felt they were improving their own life, and not just the life of a spotted owl.

Here is a good overview of the concept of ecosystem services. It contains a link to an article in Current Biology with a lot more details.


  1. Hey,
    I guess that this is from the conservation education and fundraising viewpoint. However, I guess the current trend is that biological diversity underpins the services, by making ecological functions redundant and therefore more resilient. What do you think?


  2. Yes, my post does come from the angle of conservation education, and hopefully, the desire to transform that education into action, which is really what is needed. I agree that biodiversity underpins ecosystem services, since it is the "biology" in biodiversity that is actually providing the services.

    However, I don't understand your comments on redundancy and resiliency. Can you expand and/or provide an example?

    By the way, thank you for being the first commenter on my new blog. In your honor, I will post more on this topic!

  3. Hey,
    thanks =) Ecosystem services are quite an interesting topic.

    I guess that the more "biodiverse" an area is, the more it can have species having the same functions (ie grasshopers and cows share a function: eating grass). Therefore, if one species is diseapearing, another can take its place (in terms of process) in the ecosystem, which can still provide the service. I know this has been simplified, but you can still take a look at a document entitled "Biodiversity, ecosystem services and resilience."

    Take care !


  4. Thank you, I Googled and read the document "Biodiversity, Ecosystem Services and Resilience." This has helped me see the downside of ecosystem services a little better.

    For instance, Box 10 (The Role of Functional Diversity in Pollination) describes an experiment where plots of land that started with the same plant diversity were pollinated by either bees alone, flies alone, or both. Two years later, the plot that had been pollinated by both bees and flies had 50% more plant diversity than the other plots.

    It appears that organisms are not interchangeable even when they appear to have the same function. Chalk one up for biodiversity!

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