Ecosystem Services & Biodiversity (ESB)

Assessment & Valuation

Agriculture, livestock, forestry, and fisheries both benefit from and supply ecosystem services. Assessment and valuation are important first steps towards recognising the degree to which ecosystem services contribute to agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries (and vice versa) and, therefore, to national economies. Knowing their value promotes greater investment for their management.

To build strategies for truly sustainable production systems, their reliance on and support to ecosystem services needs to be understood and acknowledged.

Over the last decade, water scarcity and land degradation have shown that we cannot take nature’s benefits for granted, nor see them as unbounded global public goods. These crises have demonstrated that even if services offered by nature can be replaced, it will come at a hefty price.

Certain ecosystem services are easily understood, such as clean air and clean water provision, and have been valued in certain cases. However, others, such as aesthetic appreciation of nature and nature as an inspiration for culture and innovation, are difficult to quantify.   Regulating services – such as natural pest control and nutrient cycling- often operate in the background, beyond peoples’ perception, and thus are not recognised or valued.

In order to see the whole picture, it is important to look at the large array of services provided by each type of ecosystem. Then, their interactions with agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forestry need to be understood.

Example 1 – fisheries and forestry in the Amazon Basin

The critical fisheries resources of the Amazon Basin depend on the health of the adjacent forests. The forests provide habitats for fish within the ecosystem, they also provide food as many fish eat the fruits that fell on the water, they regulate the water delivery and the water quality, and they are the areas that take on seasonal floods.

Example 2 – agricultural systems and food security

A well-managed agricultural system, not only delivers food, but also several other benefits. Pollination services, flood control and erosion control are all examples of services provided by a well-managed agricultural system. Inversely, respecting and protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services enhances long-term food security. Healthy ecosystems are the best way to ensure productive agriculture and nutritious food.

FAO works with partners to the ways in which ecosystem services are essential to food production, as well as how agriculture itself can enhance the provision of these services.