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Ecosystem Services & Biodiversity (ESB)

Ecosystem services are the multitude of benefits that nature provides to society. Biodiversity is the diversity among living organisms, which is essential to ecosystems function and services delivery.

Ecosystems – living elements which interact with each other and their non-living environments – provide benefits, or services, to the world.

Ecosystem services make human life possible by, for example, providing nutritious food and clean water, regulating disease and climate, supporting the pollination of crops and soil formation, and providing recreational, cultural and spiritual benefits. Despite an estimated value of $125 trillion, these assets are not adequately accounted for in political and economic policy, which means there is insufficient investment in their protection and management. Read about the four types of services the world’s ecosystems provide in the section below.

Biodiversity includes diversity within and among species and ecosystems. Changes in biodiversity can influence the supply of ecosystem services. Biodiversity, as with ecosystem services, must be protected and sustainably managed.

What FAO does?

FAO supports and enhances the ecosystem services provided by and to agriculture, livestock, fisheries and aquaculture, and forestry and wildlands. Read the background section to learn more.

Why is it necessary?

The natural resource base and ecosystem services are the foundation of all food and agricultural systems. To ensure the provision of essential ecosystem services, ecosystem functions need to be supported, sustained, and the biodiversity protected. This is one of FAO’s Major Areas of Work.

Ecosystem services

Since agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries both benefit from and influence ecosystem services, impact goes both ways. These impacts from agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries on ecosystem services can be positive or negative, for example:

Positive impact on ecosystem services Negative impact on ecosystem services
Agriculture provides habitats to wild species and creates aesthetic landscapes
Pesticides, as well as landscape homogenisation, can decrease natural pollination
Forests help maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems and provide reliable sources of clean water
Deforestation or poor management can increase flooding and landslides during cyclones
Animal excreta can be an important source of nutrients, seed dispersal and can maintain soil fertility in grazed grasslands
Excess of animal excreta and poor management can lead to water pollution and threaten aquatic biodiversity
Sustainable and integrated aquaculture can enhance the mangrove functionality of flood protection
Overfishing has a devastating impact on ocean communities as it destabilizes the food chain and destroys the natural habitats of many aquatic species

Ecosystems provide four types of services to the world

are the material benefits people get from ecosystems for e.g. supply of food, water, fibers, wood and fuels.

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are the benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes e.g. the regulation of air quality and soil fertility, control of floods or crop pollination.

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are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services, for e.g. by providing plants and animals with living spaces, allowing for diversity of species, and maintaining genetic diversity.

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are non-material benefits people gain from ecosystems, for e.g. aesthetic and engineering inspiration, cultural identity and spiritual well-being.

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