Chapter

Ecosystem functions and services

Cagan H. Sekercioglu

in Conservation Biology for All

Published in print January 2010 | ISBN: 9780199554232
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191720666 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199554232.003.0004
 Ecosystem functions and services

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In this chapter, Cagan H. Sekercioglu recapitulates natural ecosystem functions and services. Ecosystem services are the set of ecosystem functions that are useful to humans. These services make the planet inhabitable by supplying and purifying the air we breathe and the water we drink. Water, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur are the major global biogeochemical cycles. Disruptions of these cycles can lead to floods, droughts, climate change, pollution, acid rain, and many other environmental problems. Soils provide critical ecosystem services, especially for sustaining ecosystems and growing food crops, but soil erosion and degradation are serious problems worldwide. Higher biodiversity usually increases ecosystem efficiency and productivity, stabilizes overall ecosystem functioning, and makes ecosystems more resistant to perturbations. Mobile linked animal species provide critical ecosystem functions and increase ecosystem resilience by connecting habitats and ecosystems through their movements. Their services include pollination, seed dispersal, nutrient deposition, pest control, and scavenging. Thousands of species that are the components of ecosystems harbor unique chemicals and pharmaceuticals that can save people's lives, but traditional knowledge of medicinal plants is disappearing and many potentially valuable species are threatened with extinction. Increasing habitat loss, climate change, settlement of wild areas, and wildlife consumption facilitate the transition of diseases of animals to humans, and other ecosystem alterations are increasing the prevalence of other diseases. Valuation of ecosystem services and tradeoffs helps integrate these services into public decision‐making and can ensure the continuity of ecosystems that provide the services.

Keywords: climate change; droughts; ecosystem services; floods; nutrient deposition; pest control; pollination; pollution; scavenging; seed dispersal

Chapter.  17358 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Animal Pathology and Diseases

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