Ecosystem services are the beneficial outcomes of functioning ecosystems – biological communities and their chemical and physical environments, such as rivers, wetlands, woodlands or coastlines – and can be divided into four key categories.
Benefits for people’s health, well-being and cognitive development as well as the aesthetic value of experiencing nature.
Products obtained from ecosystems, such as food, fuel, pharmaceuticals or fresh water
Services such as nutrient cycling, photosynthesis and soil creation.
Processes such as carbon cycling, air quality control, water regulation, pollination, natural hazard reduction, pest regulation and, most important now, climate change regulation.
These are the manifestation of what is termed natural capital, the stock of renewable and non-renewable resources from which we derive value. Inherently, all financial capital relies on its natural cousin, with the flow of associated services providing us with the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe.
Our indentured ecosystems are essential to our ability to combat climate change and sustain our comfortable 21st-century existence.
Examples of Ecosystem Service Valuation:
People are 24% more likely to meet NHS-recommended levels of physical activity and so reduce the sedentary population, if they live within 500m of accessible green space. With potential savings for the NHS of £1.44bn from a 1% reduction in morbidity and mortality rates, there are fairly major implications for providing people with access to green space.
Agricultural environmental stewardship was estimated to save 3.46m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year from 2007 to 2013, roughly equal to saving £1.26bn.
Street trees in Greater London are estimated to provide a value of more than £130m a year in storm water alleviation, carbon sequestration, energy savings and pollution removal.
Natural coastal floodplain restoration has been shown to have a cost–benefit ratio of 1:3.2.
Studies have shown the potential benefit that well-managed natural space can have on inward investment and house prices; a community woodland created in St Helens in Merseyside was estimated to enhance property values in the area by £15m.