UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Ecosystem health, ecosystem services, and the well-being of humans and the rest of nature

IGP's Prof. Robert Costanza and Dr Ida Kubiszewski are co-authors on new paper for Global Change Biology


13 July 2022

Authors: Marcello Hernández-Blanco, Robert Costanza, Haojie Chen, Dolf deGroot, Diane Jarvis, Ida Kubiszewski, Javier Montoya, Kamaljit Sangha, Natalie Stoeckl, Kerry Turner, Vince van ‘t Hoff

An ecosystem is healthy if it is active, maintains its organization and autonomy over time, and is resilient to stress. Healthy ecosystems provide human well-being via ecosystem services, which are produced in interaction with human, social, and built capital. These services are affected by different ecosystem stewardship schemes. Therefore, society should be aiming for ecosystem health stewardship at all levels to maintain and improve ecosystem services. We review the relationship between ecosystem health and ecosystem services, based on a logic chain framework starting with (1) a development or conservation policy, (2) a management decision or origin of the driver of change, (3) the driver of change itself, (4) the change in ecosystem health, (5) the change in the provision of ecosystem services, and (6) the change in their value to humans. We review two case studies to demonstrate the application of this framework. We analyzed 6,131 records from the Ecosystem Services Valuation Database (ESVD) and found that in approximately 58% of the records data on ecosystem health were lacking. Finally, we describe how the United Nations' System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) incorporates ecosystem health as part of efforts to account for natural capital appreciation or depreciation at the national level. We also provide recommendations for improving this system.

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