Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biosphere - WBGU

Conservation and Sustainable Use of the Biosphere - WBGU

Ecosystem products and services D 2.5


Box D 2.5-1

A taxonomy of ecosystem services and products

and associated value categories

Functional value

1. Regulatory services: climate and water

– Maintaining composition of gases in the atmosphere,

– Protection against ultra-violet rays through oxygen

production and subsequent formation of ozone in the


– Partial stabilisation of the climate,

– Reduction of temperature extremes and strong


– Maintenance of biologically necessary humidity conditions,

– Controlling the hydrological cycle.

2. Global biogeochemical cycles

– Carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur.

3. Formation and protection of structure (soil, slopes,


– Formation and maintenance of soils,

– Erosion of original rock, transformation of nitrogen,

phosphorus and sulphur into compounds available to


– Protection against erosion,

– Flood protection (alluvial forests, flood meadows,


– Coastal protection through formation of coral reefs

and dune systems,

– Slope protection: landslides, etc.

Transition from functional to use value

1. Sink services

– Breakdown and transformation of poisons and nutrients,


2. Pest control and pollination

– Pest and disease control,

– Pollination of important crops and wild plants.

Use value

1. Biomass production

– Fisheries, agricultural and forest products, harvesting

of natural substances.

2. Technology and research

– Nature as a model for technology: error-tolerant systems,

bionics, ideas for engineers: building materials,

fibres and industrial products, nature as a model for

medical research.

3. Tourism and leisure/recreation

– Nature as a destination for those seeking recreation,

ecotourism, zoos, botanical gardens, parks.

Symbolic value

1. Ecosystems as cultural vehicles

– Close connection between ecosystems and particular

cultural types (Section E 3.5).

2. Biological diversity as the source of quality of life

– Experience and stimulation: aesthetics, art,

– Experience of the wilderness as elemental experience,

– Leisure pursuits from mountain climbing to diving

(partly also use value),

– Recreation and recuperation, rest and meditation

– Education, transmission of knowledge.

Option value

1. Informational services

– In-situ maintenance of genetic heritage of evolution:

maintenance of a universal ‘genetic library’, from

which humankind derives the basis of its existence in

the form of crops and livestock, medical substances,


Sources: Myers, 1996a; Costanza et al, 1997; Daily, 1997b

(Schulze and Gerstberger, 1993). Furthermore, the

desired services and products from ecosystems

cannot be achieved with uniform landscapes.

Therefore, it is important to look at the landscape

level in order not to lose sight of important ecosystem

services (eg slope protection, erosion protection,

drinking water, recreation; Box D 2.5-1; Section

E 3.9 and Chapter H).

• Efforts in the context of restoration ecology

demonstrate that in many instances intervention

into the biosphere is irreversible (Box D 2.4-2).

This applies not only at the species level (an

extinct species is lost irretrievably), but also for

populations (that have adapted genetically

through evolution to a particular region) and for

certain types of ecosystem. Management decisions

that cannot be reversed must be taken with particular

care. In case of doubt, the precautionary

principle should always be applied.

Biodiversity needs to be conserved not only for its

own sake, but also to safeguard future economic and

cultural development. Therefore it must be in the

interests of all countries to maintain a certain portion

of their terrestrial, aquatic and marine ecosystems in

its natural state (Section I 1). Such core zones incorporated

into regional use strategies should remain

free of any commercial use (Section E 3.3.2). They

can also act as monitoring and control sites with the

help of which we can appraise the impacts of human


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