Nature Provides; Ecosystem Services and Their Benefits to Humankind

Published in the journal PLoS ONE, this paper assessed more than 500 Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) sites around the world to review the potential and realized benefits which conserving these places would provide not just for species, but for human well being. The researchers determined that protecting habitats in these priority areas to halt the loss of biodiversity will yield multiple benefits to people in terms of ecosystem services.

The four ecosystem services the authors assessed were: climate change mitigation through avoidance of CO2 emissions from deforestation; freshwater services to downstream human populations; retention of option value; and benefits to maintenance of human cultural diversity. The benefits found in the global network of AZEs significantly exceeded those from randomly selected networks of sites within the same countries and regions used for comparison.

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Abstract

Protecting natural habitats in priority areas is essential to halt the loss of biodiversity. Yet whether these benefits for biodiversity also yield benefits for human well-bein remains controversial. Here we assess the potential human well-being benefits of safeguarding a global network of sites identified as top priorities for the conservation of threatened species. Conserving these sites would yield benefits — in terms of a) climate change mitigation through avoidance of CO2 emissions from deforestation; b) freshwater services to downstream human populations; c) retention of option value; and d) benefits to maintenance of human cultural diversity — significantly exceeding those anticipated from randomly selected sites within the same countries and ecoregions. Results suggest that safeguarding sites important for biodiversity conservation provides substantial benefits to human well-being.


 

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      Ecosystem Services; Human Well-being; Carbon dioxide; Fresh Water