Jump to main content
Jump to site search

All chapters
Previous chapter Next chapter

Chapter 1

An Assessment of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity in Europe

Ecosystem services are the benefits humankind derives from the workings of the natural world. These include most obviously the supply of food, fuels and materials, but also more basic processes such as the formation of soils and the control and purification of water, and intangible ones such as amenity, recreation and aesthetics. Taken together, they are crucial to survival and the social and economic development of human societies. Though many are hidden, their workings are now a matter of clear scientific record. However, the integrity of the systems that deliver these benefits cannot be taken for granted, and the process of monitoring them and of ensuring that human activity does not place them at risk is an essential part of environmental governance, not solely at a global scale but also regionally and nationally.

In this chapter, we assess the importance of ecosystem services in a European context, highlighting those that have particular importance for Europe, and we set out what is known about the contribution biodiversity makes to each of them. We then consider pressures on European ecosystem services and the measures that might be taken to manage them.

One of the key insights from this work is that all ecosystems deliver a broad range of services, and that managing an ecosystem primarily to deliver one service will reduce its ability to provide others. A prominent current example of this is the use of land to produce biofuels. There is an urgent need to develop tools for the effective valuation of ecosystem services, to achieve sustainable management of the landscape to deliver multiple services.

Print publication date: 01 Jul 2010
Copyright year: 2010
Print ISBN: 978-1-84973-018-1
PDF eISBN: 978-1-84973-105-8