Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services are the goods and services from nature that deliver benefits to human wellbeing. Management plans for nature initially focus on the protection of nature for its own sake. Nature is valuable in itself and therefore worthy of protection. If this protection is done in the right way, nature also remains capable of delivering the many goods and services covered by the term ”ecosystem services”. The concept of ecosystem services is a very broad one. Ecosystem services, among others, deliver nature's products, regulate the environment and make people experience spiritual and aesthetic values.

Such services are important for several reasons. Firstly, ecosystem services are essential for society and for human life, large groups of people depend upon them. Therefore, there is a need to ensure that these services are sustained over the long term. Secondly, identifying ecosystem services is a good way to discover relevant stakeholders and improving the link between site management on the one hand, and businesses, policy makers, governments (at different levels), and citizens on the other. This could increase the appreciation of, and understanding for nature and its conservation. Additionally, if wanted, it could even help generate some additional funding. Therefore, when managing (protected) nature sites it is important to think about which ecosystem services can be delivered, how they can be managed and how they are integrated into the management planning.

In this subchapter we discuss five questions, taking into account that knowledge about ecosystem services is not widespread amongst site managers: • Why should ecosystem services be included in management plans for (protected) nature areas? • What can we use to classify ecosystem services? • How can we identify, map and evaluate ecosystem services? • How can we identify the beneficiaries of ecosystem services and turn them into stakeholders of (protected) nature areas? • What are the important aspects of practical management and prioritisation of ecosystem services?

Read more about ecosystem services in management planning.

Links to additional information

Beech in mature woodland - Copyright Natural England
Beech in mature woodland - Copyright Natural England