About 50 bees on their way to their hive, some of the insects hover right in front of the hive, many have already landed and are crawling into the entrance.

Ecosystem services Conserving biodiversity as a life-sustaining resource

Their biodiversity enables the Earth’s ecosystems to provide services that form the basis of human development and sustainable prosperity: species-rich ecosystems supply vital resources and ensure that we have fertile soils, clean drinking water and clean air. They play an important part in binding greenhouse gases and in adaptation to the consequences of climate change. Biodiversity drives human innovation in architecture, medicine and technology. It also provides space for leisure activities, inspires artistic endeavours and has spiritual meaning in many religions.

The many and varied “functions” of biodiversity that we utilise automatically every day are subsumed under the heading “ecosystem services”. Making them visible and highlighting their economic importance is the aim of the global initiative The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (External link) (TEEB). The initiative provides decision-makers with support in the form of scientific analyses that help them give greater consideration to ecosystem services. It was launched by Germany in collaboration with the EU Commission and is being managed by a number of different institutions under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Some examples of ecosystem services

Coral reefs cover only 1.2 per cent of the continental shelf but they provide a habitat for an estimated total of up to three million species, including a quarter of all species of marine fish. Millions of people on coasts and islands are entirely dependent on reef ecosystems for food and income.

Coral reef
Coral reef

These examples illustrate the variety of ways in which humans benefit from healthy ecosystems and depend on them.

The majority of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be achieved unless the loss of biological diversity and the associated ecosystem services is halted. It is therefore incumbent upon policymakers to give greater consideration to ecosystem services and to promote the conservation of biodiversity across all sectors.