U.S. Geological Survey - Science and Decisions Center
Recreation is one of the many ways that people find value in ecosystems. Credit: Steve Hillebrand, USFWS.
Ecosystem services are attributes and outputs of ecosystems that create value for human users. These services are derived from ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling, climate regulation, and maintenance of biodiversity. For example, forests stabilize soils, filter water, and sequester carbon. Insects pollinate orchards and crops, and birds and bats pollinate flowers, trees, and shrubs. Squirrels help to regenerate forests by dispersing and burying nuts. And scavengers and bacteria aid in the decomposition of wastes. Ecosystems also provide marketable goods like seafood, timber, and natural fruits and grains.
Staff from the Science Decisions Center helped initiate and lead the development of A Community of Ecosystem Services (ACES), a consortium of scientists and practitioners focused on applying ecosystem services concepts to natural resource decision making. ACES sponsored international conferences in 2008 and 2010 that brought together leaders, managers, and scientists from government, nongovernmental organizations, academia, tribes, and the private sector, to advance the incorporation of ecosystem services in conservation and planning.
Staff at the Center worked with the USDA Forest Service to produce a special ecosystem services edition of the Natural Inquirer, a publication designed as an educational resource for middle-school students. Efforts are now underway to produce another special edition with a focus on adaptive management.