Humans are more dependent upon ecosystem services and biodiversity than ever before, according to researchers.
A new study has demonstrated that human well-being derived from three major ecosystem services has been increasing, particularly in countries considered to be biodiversity hotspots. The ecosystem services are water provision, biodiversity and carbon storage.
This study aimed to answer the question, ‘are humans still so dependent on ecosystems?’ The researchers analysed three indicators of human well-being provided by ecosystems:
(i.) production of wood;
(ii.) production of hydroelectricity, which depends on river flow; and
(iii.) investment in tourism, which depends on the cultural and aesthetic value of an area.
Out of 152 countries analysed, 92 were biodiversity hotspots (countries with a significant amount of biodiversity threatened by humans) and 60 were non-hotspot countries.
The findings indicate that dependence of humans on cultural environmental services (as represented by tourism investment) has increased and is likely to increase more rapidly than dependence on environmental services providing regulatory functions, such as water flow (as represented by hydroelectricity). Dependence on provisioning services, such as timber (as represented by wood production), has reduced and is likely to continue to reduce.
The results also indicate that humans can benefit more from ecosystems and biodiversity that are well conserved, since the overall growth of the three indicators was greater in biodiversity hotspots.
Overall the study suggests that economic growth has made humans more dependent upon ecosystems and biodiversity and this trend is most prevalent in developing countries with biodiversity hotspots. Therefore, in these countries, economic and conservation policies should be developed with the increased dependency of humans on environmental services in mind and the relationship of environmental services to economic growth.
The study has provided a starting point for understanding the connections between ecosystems and human well-being, but more research is needed, especially as only three indicators were examined.
In October 2010, the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity closed the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit by adopting decisions that will permit governments to meet the unprecedented challenges of the continued loss of biodiversity compounded by climate change.
Could this present opportunities for stronger biodiversity payments in future? According to the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, it does! “Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) is not just an idea, it’s being implemented in countries like Costa Rica, and it’s demonstrating that biodiversity is good business” said Ahmed Djoghlaf, in an interview published by the Ecosystem Marketplace.
Source: Guo, Z., Zhang, L. & Li, Y. (2010) Increased Dependence of Humans on Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity. PLoS ONE. 5(10): 1-7. This study is free to view at: www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0013113