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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

16 - Sustaining industrial activity and ecological quality: the potential role of an ecosystem services approach



Modern societies benefit greatly from the products of industry and ecosystems provide the raw materials and energy required to produce them. Societies also benefit from a wide range of other ecosystem services including the supply of food, fuel, fibre and water, the regulation of disease and climate, recreational opportunities and aesthetic enjoyment. However, there is a potential conflict between these two types of benefits as increased industrialisation is often associated with increased release of hazardous chemicals or habitat modification, which have the potential to degrade ecosystem services, including those required for continued industrial production and development.

Here we consider the relationship between industrialisation and environmental impact using the development of Sheffield's metal industries as a case study. We then go on to explore the broader question of ecological quality and how it is defined, before outlining a quality assessment framework based on ecosystem services that may provide a tool for managing ecosystems for the optimal delivery of services. Finally, we consider the global aspects of economic development, industrialisation and environmental degradation.

Environmental impacts of industry: Sheffield metal industries and the River Don

Sheffield is synonymous with steel and metal has been worked here since at least the Middle Ages. Early metal workers capitalised on the environmental resources provided by the region: fast flowing rivers for water power, oak woodlands for charcoal, iron ore for smelting and grit stone for grinding. Later the locally abundant coal became an important source of power.

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