This toolkit was originally published on Biodivcanada.


Introduction

“Ecosystem services (ES), sometimes referred to as “nature’s benefits,” draw attention to the ways that people depend on a healthy environment.Footnote 1 ES support life (e.g., by providing air, water, food, raw materials, medicines), security (e.g., by mitigating extreme weather events, spread of vector-borne diseases), and quality of life (e.g., by supporting mental and physical health, cultural identity, recreation), among many other things. Regardless of what they are called, nature’s benefits are the basis of human lives and economies. Humans are instrumental in most ES to varying degrees through environmental management and modification. Biodiversity-the variability of life among and within species and ecosystems-is an essential component in ES. Biodiversity underpins ecosystem resilience, integrity, and functioning.Footnote 2

Human activity, however, has caused major declines in biodiversity worldwide and significant degradation of ecosystems.Footnote 3 In 2010, the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Global Biodiversity Outlook-3 (GBO-3) report found that all major pressures on biodiversity were increasing and that “some ecosystems were being pushed towards critical thresholds or tipping points.”Footnote 4 These losses severely compromise the ability of ecosystems to produce ES, with measurable costs to public health, security, and well-being. The UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) assessed the condition and trends of ecosystems and ES, and how they benefit human well-being. Among the MA’s main findings is that “over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber, and fuel. This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth.” Footnote5…”

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