Ecological Services

Ecological services are defined as “the benefits people obtain from ecosystems” (MEA, 2005). The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment identified four main categories:

 

  • Provisioning services such as food and water.

  • Regulating services such as flood and disease control.

  • Cultural services such as spiritual, recreational, and cultural benefits.

  • Supporting services, such as pollination and nutrient cycling, that maintains the conditions for life on Earth.

 

In reality some ecological services also include contributions from conventional goods and services.

Semi-natural habitats contribute to ecological services in all four categories.

 

The vegetation in semi-natural habitats is the basis for provision of many valuable ecological services. Semi-natural habitats are found in non-cropped areas - hedgerows, grass strips and woodland - and in cropped areas – cover crops, spontaneous vegetation during fallow, living mulches. In addition to the spontaneous vegetation occupying the fields throughout the year, a number of habitats created within fields may improve functional biodiversity: cover crops, woodland, fallows and understoreys. While studies have appeared that describe ecological functions of semi-natural habitats, very few studies addressed their beneficial impacts, or ecological services. In view of this lack of knowledge it is not surprising that quantification of the relative value of the ecological services provided by different semi-natural habitats is rare (Kremen & Chaplin-Kramer, 2007), let alone that positive, negative or neutral interactions between services have received attention.

Abbreviations:

SNH

Semi-natural Habitat

WP

Work Package

ES

Ecological Services