On ecosystems and the services they provide – Let’s talk facts

Ecosystem services are the foundation of all food and agricultural systems

03 Feb 2016

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. In 2014, the value of ecosystem services was estimated at a staggering US$ 125 trillion.  Ecosystem services, provided by biodiversity, are fundamental to food production and addressing poverty and hunger. 

Learn 10 interesting facts we collected for you on the four types of services the world’s ecosystems provide and share them with your network!

Water, food, wood and other goods are some of the material benefits people obtain from ecosystems called ´provisioning services.' 


Today, the world produces 17percent more food per person than 30 years ago, with the rate of production having increased faster than the population over the last 2 decades. Of all ecosystem services, food production is one that has shown a consistently upward trend in recent history.  


Ecosystems provide a great diversity of materials including wood,  biofuel and fibers from plants and animals. For example, livestock provide different types of raw material such as fibre (wool, mohair), skin and co products used in the feed and food industries (bones, blood).


Crops are heavily dependent on freshwater as almost 60 percent of all the world's freshwater withdrawals go towards irrigation uses. Improved cropping systems can enhance the water retention capacity of the soil and the provision of water.


Key medicines such as Quinine, which effectively fights malaria, come from trees. Traditional knowledge can teach us a lot about other possible natural remedy as long as the fragile balance of the forest ecosystems is kept.

 Maintaining the quality of air and soil, providing flood and disease control, or pollinating crops are some of the ‘regulating services' provided by ecosystems.


Waste-water treatment: Ecosystems such as wetlands filter effluents, decompose waste through the biological activity of microorganisms, and eliminate harmful pathogens.


Gastro-intestinal nematode parasitism is one of the most important disease constraints to small ruminant production in the sub-tropics and tropics. The disease can be biologically controlled using the predacious fungi.  


Livestock can have a negative influence on local air quality, especially through ammoniac (NH3) emission coming from high density livestock systems. Installing filters in barns can help reducing this impact.

Providing living spaces for plants or animals and maintaining a diversity of plants and animals, are ‘supporting services' and the basis of all ecosystems and their services.



Marine and freshwater ecosystems are key habitats for millions of aquatic species (e.g. coral reefs are home to 25 percent of marine fish species and are a significant food source for over a billion people worldwide) exploited commercially or consumed locally.


Since the 1900s, some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers worldwide have left their multiple local varieties and landraces for genetically uniform, high-yielding varieties. Maintenance of genetic diversity is key to adapting to changing conditions.  

The non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems are called ‘cultural services'. They include aesthetic inspiration, cultural identity, sense of home, and spiritual experience related to the natural environment.



Coral reefs are particularly important for tourism and have a high value associated with them. Recreational fishing is a growing tourism sector with an estimated 118 million fishers in the industrialized world.

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