Project for Ecosystem Services (ProEcoServ)
Human Well - being and nature: A critical connection
Our well-being is inextricably linked to nature; yet most of us never think about the economic and social value of the ecosystems, like wetlands, forests and coral reefs, that make up our natural environment. We just take them for granted. But they have tremendous value because they support some of the most important aspects of human well-being. Ecosystems provide food, clean and plentiful water, wood and craft materials, and medicinal plants. They also provide less obvious services like pollination, reducing flooding, regulating the climate, and helping to offset the effects of man-made climate change. We also use them for many recreational activities - like beach or river limes and forest hikes. These benefits of nature, or ecosystem services as they are called, are the link between the environment and development. The ability of our ecosystems to provide these critical services decreases if they are destroyed or used so heavily that the ecosystems cannot function properly.
The need to bridge the gap between science and policy
Increasing evidence suggests the destruction of vital ecosystems and their services could be irreversible unless action is taken to bridge the gap between science and policy and reflect such evidence in our policies, institutions and practices. Those who are responsible for managing natural resources and who use them directly to earn a living are aware of their value, but this value is often not translated into economic terms and the ecosystems are not counted as economic and livelihood assets that can generate sustainable flows of benefits year after year. If our ecosystems continue to be degraded, income from agriculture, fishing, forestry and tourism will be reduced, poverty will increase and everyone’s way of life will be affected.
What are Ecosystems?
An ecosystem is all the living and non-living things in a particular area and their interactions. For example, in the forests of the Northern Range you find people, plants and animals but also rivers, soils, rocks, sunlight and the air that we breathe. An ecosystem can be large or small – a huge rainforest like the Amazon or your back garden. Often ecosystems are described by class – terrestrial and aquatic (freshwater or ocean) - or by sub-categories such as wetlands, coral reefs, forests or grasslands. Well-known examples of these in Trinidad and Tobago are the Nariva Swamp (wetland), Buccoo Reef (coral reef), the Northern Range (forest) and the Aripo Savannas (grassland).
What are Ecosystem Services
Ecosystem services are the beneﬁts people obtain from ecosystems. These include provisioning services such as food, water, timber, and ﬁber; regulating services that affect climate, ﬂoods, disease, wastes, and water quality; cultural services that provide recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual beneﬁts; and supporting services such as soil formation, photosynthesis, and nutrient cycling. The human species, while buffered against environmental changes by culture and technology, is fundamentally dependent on the ﬂow of ecosystem services.