NSP - Soil ecosystems services

Ecosystem services are a way of putting a value on biodiversity by looking at what it does and how we value the function that the soil performs. These produce a range of services which are essential to our health and well being (IPCC 2002).

  • Clean air & water
  • Cultural, spiritual & recreational values
  • Decomposition and cycling of organic matter
  • Gas exchange and carbon sequestration
  • Maintenance of soil structure
  • Medicines
  • Plant growth control
  • Pollination
  • Production of food, fuel & energy
  • Regulation of nutrients and uptake
  • Seed dispersal
  • Soil detoxification
  • Soil formation & prevention of soil erosion
  • Suppression of pests and diseases

To provide a framework of how ecosystems provide for human lives the term 'Ecosystem Approach' and 'Ecosystem Services'  are being used. The 'Ecosystem Approach' is to assist decision makers to take full account of ecological systems and their associated biodiversity. 'Ecosystem Services' describe which the process and functions, provided by the natural world, that are used by humankind for it’s well being. 

Tools for monitoring biodiversity

The following have been developed by the European Environment Agency as part of the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) study to highlight concerns and benefits of biodiversity:

The Millenium Assessment

The Millennium Assessment identified four key service areas:

  • Supporting services:  for the production of all other ecosystem services including soil formation, photosynthesis, primary production, nutrient cycling and water cycling.
  • Provisioning services:  The products obtained from ecosystems, e.g. food, fuel, fresh water;
  • Regulating services:  The benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes, including air quality regulation, climate, water & disease regulation, water 
  • Cultural services:  The non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment