Ecosystem Services and Their Importance to Mankind
University of Illinois at Chicago
Although technological advances over recent centuries have surpassed unfathomable expectations, those services most essential to the survival of mankind are provided for, freely, by natural occurring events taking place regularly in our ecosystems. The purification of air and water, protection against droughts and floods, reduction of greenhouse gases, decomposition of organic matter, preservation and recycling of soils and the nutrients therein are just a few examples of the many (Daily, 2). These ecosystem services are defined as any function of natural origin providing some benefit to human society (Cairns, 534). Unfortunately, many of these technological advancements come with some expense, namely, habitat destruction, introduction of invasive exotic species, and the alteration of gaseous atmospheric composition. Furthermore, these services are so fundamental to life that they are often overlooked and underappreciated (Daily, 3). Although it is difficult to determine exactly which service results in what benefit, its absence tends to indicate its extinction from human society altogether. Because individuals are unaware of the importance these ecosystem services, their preservation is seemingly, an impossible feat.
Aside from services provided for by the ecosystem, often times goods are directly extracted from the environment. For example, cultivation of crops like maize, soybean, and wheat are just a few harvested here in the mid-west. Other goods such as timber, fuel wood, fiber and pharmaceuticals are provided by our ecosystems at next to no cost relative to the profits they produce (Daily, 4). In the United States alone, the value of the fishery industry exceeds that of the annual global yield combined. Obviously, this ecosystem service is of great importance to the U.S. economy. However, pollution and over...
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