“The most unique feature of Earth is the existence of life, and the most extraordinary feature of life is its diversity. Approximately 9 million types of plants, animals, protists and fungi inhabit the Earth. So, too, do 7 billion people. Two decades ago, at the first Earth Summit, the vast majority of the world’s nations declared that human actions were dismantling the Earth’s ecosystems, eliminating genes, species and biological traits at an alarming rate. This observation led to the question of how such loss of biological diversity will alter the functioning of ecosystems and their ability to provide society with the goods and services needed to prosper.” – Bradley J. Cardinale
Processes carried out by ecosystems provide a variety of products and services for humanity and can be divided into two primary categories: ecosystem functions and ecosystem services. Ecosystem functions can be defined by “the ecological processes that control the fluxes of energy, nutrients and organic matter through an environment”. Functions within the ecosystem that help maintain the Earth’s natural balance such as primary production, decomposition of dead matter and nutrient recycling.
Ecosystem services are processes that occur within an ecosystem provide benefits to humanity. Services such as food, water and oxygen. These services can be splits into provisioning services which provide humans and other species with tangible goods such as food and water; and regulating services that help regulate the Earth’s environment and atmosphere. Regulating services include water purification, climate regulation and oxygen production.