One thing we don’t always think about when we are considering the harm we cause to the environment, are ecological services. According to the National Wildlife Federation an ecological service is any positive benefit that wildlife or ecosystems provide to people, and there are four major categories including provisioning, regulating, cultural, and supporting.
- A provisioning service is any type of benefit that can be extracted from nature. This is the service we all know the best. This service provides us with several types of food including fish, fruit, livestock, and vegetables. We also get things like timber for building, medicine, fuel from wood, oil, and natural gas, drinking water, and plants like cotton that can be used for things like clothing. When we think of the things we lose by harming the environment, these materials are what we think of the most.
- A regulating service is the benefit provided by ecosystem processes that moderate natural phenomena. One example is pollination. A lot of food that we have would not be able to reproduce if we did not have insects for pollinating the plants. More examples include, decomposition, which would be the breakdown of waste, water purification, erosion and flood control which is provided by trees and plants, and carbon storage which is also provided by trees and plants. These services are so important and we often take them for granted.
- A cultural service is a non-material benefit that contributes to the development and cultural advancement of people. This includes how ecosystems contribute to cultures, the building of knowledge and spreading of ideas, creativity from interacting with nature which leads to music, art, and architecture, and recreation. I had actually never considered this as a service that nature provides to us until I read it on the NWF website. However, I have thought of recreation before as an important thing that we won’t have if we don’t protect the environment. Think about all the things nature gives us and lets us enjoy. We canoe, swim, hike, camp, mountain climb, and several other things in nature. If we don’t protect nature, we won’t have these things to enjoy.
- Supporting services are the underlying natural processes that sustain our ecosystems. One such process would be photosynthesis. Truly, we could not exist without the process of photosynthesis, because this process is what makes the suns energy usable to us. Other processes would be nutrient cycling, the creation of soil, and the water cycle.
A lot of these services, we really take for granted. Especially in developed countries, we believe that clean water to drink and plenty of food to eat is something we just get. If you aren’t very motivated to care much about the environment, hopefully this has helped you to see how much the environment does for us. In a selfish sort of way, maybe the fact that humans need a lot of these services to exist will push you to care more about the environment.