Campus Sustainability Office

Ecosystem Services

Continue to selected references

Ecosystem services is a term used to describe the myriad of benefits that human society receives from natural systems and processes, like flood & erosion control, nutrient cycling, water filtration, carbon sequestration, climate regulation, and pollination. In some cases it is also used to describe resources such as clean air and water, food, fiber, fuel, and soils that we may be able to copy with technology but at a prohibitively expensive rate. In less tangible ways nature also provides recreational, educational, spiritual, and aesthetic resources or services. These resources are all described as natural capital and are considered as fundamental to the economy as financial, produced, social, and human capital.

Ecological economists make the case that natural capital should be calculated in GDP accounting; where it is diminished it reduces GDP, but where it is protected it contributes positively to GDP. Paul Hawken, noted expert in natural capital, stated in a speech in 2009 that, "At present, we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it Gross Domestic Product," implying that Earth's future residents will find depleted stocks of natural capital and fewer of benefits than we receive from them today because we have failed to care for it.

Continue to selected references

Document Actions

The University of Wisconsin Oshkosh — Where Excellence and Opportunity Meet.