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Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services, as defined by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment are:

'the benefits people obtain from ecosystems'. These include 'provisioning services such as food, water, timber, and fiber; regulating services that affect climate, floods, disease, wastes, and water quality; cultural services that provide recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual benefits; and supporting services such as soil formation, photosynthesis, and nutrient cycling. The human species, while buffered against environmental changes by culture and technology, is fundamentally dependent on the flow of ecosystem services.'

More information about ecosystem services.


On 11th December 2007 Defra published 'Securing a healthy natural environment: an action plan for embedding and ecosystems approach'. The action plan sets a new strategic direction for government policy on the natural environment. Defra has identified 37 actions that will be delivered mainly over the next two years and which represent an ambitious and wide-ranging agenda for Defra, the Defra network and their partners.

Launching the plan, Joan Ruddock, Minister for Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste said:

"This Action Plan sets out a new direction for protecting and enhancing the natural environment. It is intended to help us to deliver a number of important benefits, including better-informed decisions, more efficient use of resources, and a greater awareness of the value of our natural environment."

An Introductory Guide to Valuing Ecosystem Services has been published alongside the action plan. The aim of this Guide is to provide an introduction to the valuation of ecosystem services. It builds on previous approaches to valuing the environment but takes a more systematic approach to the assessment of impacts on the natural environment. Further information and electronic copies of both publications are available to download on the Defra website, or at the ecosystem services section of our library.

If you have any comments or feedback on the action plan, please send these to the Ecosystems mailbox at ecosystems@defra.gsi.gov.uk