Over recent decades, we have gained a greater appreciation and understanding of how the survival of our own species is intractably bound up with the services provided for us by Nature. Collectively known as ‘ecosystem services’ (ES), e.g. The services and benefits such as purification of water, provision of genetic resource and carbon sequestration, provided by ecosystems now form a new area of research and academic study, not least because the concept can be used to both improve understanding of the natural environment as well as foster a more responsible approach to the use of natural assets.
The concept of ecosystem services has been adopted at international and national level with the publication in 2005 of Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), followed by the UK’s own National Ecosystem Assessment in 2011. The MEA found that ecosystems have been adversely altered more extensively by humans over the past 50 years than at any other comparable time in human history. With the human population expected to reach almost 10 billion by 2050, pressures on ecosystems are only expected to increase, making their co-ordinated protection ever more important.
Students will consider not only the benefits which ecosystems provide for humans but also the current and predicted threats and the effectiveness of proposed strategies to mitigate impacts, both at national and international levels.