Ecosystem Services: Deforestation And Soil Erosion

2067 words - 8 pages

According to Mooney and Ehrlich (1997), the idea that human beings depend on natural systems traces back as far as Plato. Plato (c. 400 BC) realised that deforestation could lead to soil erosion and the drying of springs (Daily 2007; Gómez-Baggethun et al., 2009).
The first modern publication that addresses this concept is in the book Man and Nature written by George Perkins Marsh dated 1864. Marsh started to realize that the world’s resources were not infinite and that natural systems are important to water, soil, climate, the disposal of waste and pest control. He also suggested that Earth’s natural resources were limited by looking at the changes in Mediterranean soil fertility (Mooney and Ehrlich 1997). The 1940’s era brought new attention to Marsh’s observations, in books such as Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac (1949) and William Vogt’s Road to Survival (1948). These authors promoted the recognition that humans depend on the environment with the idea of ‘natural capital’. The first textbook built on the ecosystem concept, written by Eugene Odum, was published in 1953 (Odum 1953). Thus the ecosystem concept, “so central to understanding the nature of life on Earth, is actually a relatively new research and management approach” (MA 2005). An environmental science textbook (Ehrlich & Ehrlich, 1970) suggested that “the most subtle and dangerous threat to man’s existence… is the potential destruction, by man’s own activities, of those ecological systems upon which the very existence of the human species depends”.

In 1977, Westman wrote “The functions of an ecosystem, on the other hand, are characterized by the ways in which the components of the system interact. They are the dynamics of ecosystems-nature's free "services." These functions impart to society a variety of benefits”. In subsequent years, services were referred to as “public services” and “nature’s services”, and finally the term “ecosystem services” were used by Ehrlich and Ehrlich in 1981. The “mainstreaming of ecosystem services in the literature” (Gomez-Baggethun et al., 2009) followed in the 1990s. The controversial article by Costanza et al. (2007) titled “The value of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital”, was a milestone in the mainstreaming of ecosystem services (Daily 2007; Gomez-Baggethun et al., 2009). Their main approach has been to provide an economic valuation for ecosystem services over the entire planet. They estimated that the annual average value of 17 ecosystem services is US$33 trillion (Costanza et al., 2007). The amount of research projects and literature which addresses ecosystem services is rising exponentially since 2005. The publication of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA 2005) and the work of Costanza et al. (2007) is probably the main reason for this trend we have seen over the last 10 years (Fisher et al., 2009). One of the key results of the MA was the finding that globally 60% of the ecosystem services investigated are...

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