Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services are commonly defined as benefits people obtain from ecosystems. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment – a four-year United Nations assessment of the condition and trends of the world’s ecosystems - categorizes ecosystem services as:

  • Provisioning Services or the provision of food, fresh water, fuel, fiber, and other goods;
  • Regulating Services such as climate, water, and disease regulation as well as pollination;
  • Supporting Services such as soil formation and nutrient cycling; and
  • Cultural Services such as educational, aesthetic, and cultural heritage values as well as recreation and tourism.


Ecosystem services are the multitude of benefits that nature provides to society. Biodiversity is the diversity among living organisms, which is essential to ecosystems function and services delivery.

Ecosystems – living elements which interact with each other and their non-living environments – provide benefits, or services, to the world.

Ecosystem services make human life possible by, for example, providing nutritious food and clean water, regulating disease and climate, supporting the pollination of crops and soil formation, and providing recreational, cultural and spiritual benefits. Despite an estimated value of $125 trillion, these assets are not adequately accounted for in political and economic policy, which means there is insufficient investment in their protection and management. Read about the four types of services the world’s ecosystems provide in the section below.

Biodiversity includes diversity within and among species and ecosystems. Changes in biodiversity can influence the supply of ecosystem services. Biodiversity, as with ecosystem services, must be protected and sustainably managed.