What are ecosystem services?

“Ecosystem services are the benefits provided by ecosystems that contribute to making human life both possible and worth living. Examples of ecosystem services include products such as food and water, regulation of floods, soil erosion and disease outbreaks, and non-material benefits such as recreational and spiritual benefits in natural areas. The term ‘services’ is usually used to encompass the tangible and intangible benefits that humans obtain from ecosystems, which are sometimes separated into ‘goods’ and ‘services’.” UK National Ecosystem Service Assessment.

Llyn Brianne reservoir in upland Wales regulates the Afon Tywi and provides water for Swansea

In rivers, the challenge of understanding ecosystem services is acute. In the UK, 389,000 km of rivers transport water, matter, energy and organisms between air, land and sea. With the value of the UK‟s water infrastructure estimated at £200 billion (Water UK), these are among our most important natural assets. Ideally, river ecosystems should provide water for human or animal use, food, recreation and energy; regulate flooding, sediment flux, biogeochemical cycles, water quality and waste disposal; support adjacent ecosystems by supplying water, energy and nutrients; and provide cultural value via recreation, inspiration, tourism, and education.

For more information on ecosystem services: