Posts Tagged ‘ecosystem services’


Five Rainforest Ecosystem Services that Nourish People and the Planet

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By Ioulia Fenton

From wetlands to coral reefs, the Earth’s diverse ecosystems support and regulate many of the planet’s most critical natural processes. They also contribute important cultural, social, and economic benefits to human communities. These contributions, known more broadly as “ecosystem services,” are estimated to be worth trillions of dollars per year.

Rainforests provide vital ecosystem services that sustain all life on Earth. (Photo credit: National Geographic)

The world’s rainforest ecosystem services—such as increased rainfall, soil stability, and a regulated climate—are integral to the successful production of food in many parts of the world. Rainforests in the Amazon and the Congo, for example, support rainfall in key, surrounding agricultural areas.

Today, Nourishing the Planet highlights five ecosystem services that rainforests provide to people and the planet:

1. Nutrient cycling and soil formation. According to the Rainforest Conservation Fund, many of the world’s tropical rainforests live “on the edge,” meaning that they receive very few nutrient inputs from the outside and must produce most nutrients themselves. When left intact, a rainforest acts as a closed-loop system, recycling the nutrients it has created; without tree cover, however, these nutrients would be lost and the forest would not survive.



UNEP and IWMI Advocate Agroecosystems to Improve Food, Water Security

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By Dana Drugmand 

With the world population already at 7 billion, producing food in environmentally sustainable ways will be one of the key challenges we face this century. Investing in the connections between ecosystems, water management and food production will be an important part of the solution to reducing hunger, poverty, and ecological degradation, according to a report produced jointly by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

Maintaining ecosystem services will be critical to ensuring long-term food security, according to the report from UNEP and IWMI. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

An Ecosystems Services Approach to Water and Food Security, which was launched during World Water Week in Stockholm back in August, addresses the question of how it is possible to boost food security without severely depleting water resources and while keeping healthy ecosystems intact. The report notes that water scarcity is one of the key factors limiting food production. At the same time, current agricultural practices are putting huge strains on water resources. Groundwater levels, for example, are declining rapidly in major food producing regions such as the North China Plains, the Indian Punjab, and the western United States.

As UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner writes in the report’s preface, “ensuring food security, managing water resources and protecting ecosystems must be considered as a single policy rather than as separate, and sometimes competing, choices.” The report recommends managing agricultural areas as agroecosystems, which provide ecosystem services such as nutrient cycling, soil formation, water purification and flood control that are critical to ensuring a sustainable and stable food supply. Measures such as diversifying crop production, implementing agroforestry, and improving rainwater collection should boost crop yields and build resilience to make agriculture less vulnerable to climate change. The report also offers specific recommendations for a more holistic approach to managing drylands, wetlands, crop systems, fisheries, and livestock systems. And maintaining ecosystem services in agroecosystems will require collaboration among multiple sectors, including agriculture, water, forestry, fisheries, livestock and wildlife management.



Finding Harmony With Agriculture and the Environment: An Interview with Tony Juniper, the Prince of Wales Foundation

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By Amanda Strickler

Tony Juniper is the Special Advisor to the Prince’s Charities International Sustainability Unit (ISU) based in London. He works directly with Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales who through his self-established Prince’s Charities has become an international leader in humanitarian and environmental issues. Tony Juniper is also Editor of National Geographic Green Magazine, co-author of Harmony, a book published in 2010 with the Prince of Wales and Ian Skelly, and author of Saving Planet Earth, the book to accompany the world-famous BBC series Planet Earth.

What can be done to ensure conservation and promote harmony between earth’s ecosystems and agriculture?


Tony Juniper is the Special Advisor to the Prince’s International Sustainability Unit in the UK. He is also a world-renowned author and environmentalist. (Photo credit:

The modern environmental debate and the challenge of sustainable development have been about mixtures of technologies and policies to create different outcomes.  My thinking over the years has altered somewhat to see this not only as a question of technology and policy—it’s also one of philosophy. If we want to have a different relationship with nature, we have to change our attitudes. We’re seeing nature as a source of natural resources and a place to dump waste rather than as an essential partner to be respected and nurtured. That idea is the basis of the book Harmony that the Prince of Wales published last year with Ian Skelley and me. [The book] looks at this world view where we have dominion over nature and the relationship between people and the rest of creation- it’s not harmonious at the moment.

In addition to your past work in environmental efforts and wildlife conservation, what has led you to become a major part of the ISU?

I’ve spent 25 years now working on these subjects and I spent much of it working with Friends of the Earth. As well as being Vice-Chair of Friends of the Earth International, I was Director for Friends of the Earth for this country [UK] for quite a few years and I reached the point where I thought I needed to have a change. At that time the Princes of Wales asked me to come to work on the Prince’s Rainforest Project [PRP] and I thought it was a fantastic idea. I’d known him for quite some time as one of the leading figures on these kinds of questions-one of the people, who was really beginning to make some impact. (more…)