"Ecosystem services" refer to the range of public benefits that are provided by nature. These are classified into four different types of services illustrated below.
provisioning services provided by natural resources such as food, water, fibre and fuel.
regulating services provided by natural systems including clean water and air, fertile soils, climate regulation and pollination
cultural services including recreation, cultural heritage, spiritual and aesthetic values, inspiration and education.
supporting services providing the basic infrastructure of life including soil formation, the cycling of water and nutrients, fixation of carbon by plants and the ecosystems themselves. All other ecosystem services ultimately depend on these supporting services.
Taking an ecosystems approach enables the range of different services to be looked at, rather than just one, which can lead to conflicts between delivery of the services, for example woodland planting at the expense of biodiversity, or food production impacting on water quality. An ecosystem service approach enables the wider benefits of nature to society to be taken into account in decision-making. There is also the potential in future for ‘payments for ecosystem services’, where farmers and land managers would be paid for delivering these public benefits, for example clean drinking water. Further information on ecosystem services is available on the Defra website https://www.gov.uk/ecosystems-services