What Are Ecosystem Services?
Ecosystem services are the direct and indirect benefits ecosystems provide us, humans, with. There are many different kinds of benefits ecosystems provide, it all depends on the ecosystem and how healthy it is. When ecosystems are degraded and damaged they provide us with less benefits.
Let’s look at forests. A forest can provide us with food, it helps maintain water cycles and prevent floods, forests are nature and nature is good for our mental health, they hold natural resources with the obvious one being wood, and much more. Mangrove forests, specifically, protect shorelines and riverbeds from erosion and storm or wave damage. They are very effective carbon sinks and are fish nurseries which means they are productive fishing grounds for locals. Mangroves, like all forests, also provide us with natural medicines.
Kelp forests, the underwater equivalent of a forest, provide us with fish to eat, habitat for charismatic wildlife that we visit on eco-tours or while doing water sports, they are wave breakers and capture carbon from the oceans’ waters. The kelp itself can be harvested and used in various products such as pudding and toothpaste, it is also edible in many cases.
Even deserts provide us with ecosystem services such as; medicines, water and food from their native plants, they provide nutrients for ocean creature as the sands blow into the oceans and they are culturally important for many peoples.
These benefits are slowly lost or degraded as the ecosystem degrades. Reasons for degradation are plenty from direct destruction to pollution to climate change. However, we would face a multitude of challenges without ecosystem services. Coastal wetlands and shallow marine ecosystems can help us counter erosion and sea level rise, they are also great carbon sinks together with tropical forests. Many medicines have been discovered thanks to natural compounds found in nature. More than 3 billion people rely on the oceans as their primary protein source. Can you imagine a world where we stand to lose all of that? That world is the one you live in.
Start making a difference and plant mangroves today.
Sustainability Manager and Co-Founder of White Green Blue.
Layla is on a mission to create positive impact and to spread awareness about our beautiful home. As a marine conservationist and PADI Dive Master her passion is the marine world and, of course, mangroves. She is the author of our Ecology and Culture blog series. Stephen Olefs, our Community Development Coordinator, is taking the lead in our Green Tech blog series.