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

6 - The links between biodiversity, ecosystem services and human well-being


The degradation of ecosystem services poses a significant barrier to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and the MDG targets for 2015.

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005, p. 18

Introduction: managing ecosystems for people

No matter who we are, or where we live, our well-being depends on the way ecosystems work. Most obviously, ecosystems can provide us with material things that are essential for our daily lives, such as food, wood, wool and medicines. Although the other types of benefit we get from ecosystems are easily overlooked, they also play an important role in regulating the environments in which we live. They can help ensure the flow of clean water and protect us from flooding or other hazards like soil erosion, land-slips and tsunamis. They can contribute to our spiritual well-being, through their cultural or religious significance or the opportunities they provide for recreation and the enjoyment of nature.

In this chapter, we will look at the goods and services that ecosystems can provide and the role that biodiversity may play in producing them, specifically the contribution that biodiversity makes to people's livelihoods, to their security and to their health. In other words, we will concentrate mainly on the utilitarian value of biodiversity. We will also explore how these ideas link up with those of the Ecosystem Approach to environmental management and policy, and some of the implications of this for how sustainable development is defined.

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