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Ecological Goods & Services

 

Ecological Goods & Services are the benefits that humans get from ecosystems such as clean water and air. Examples of ecological goods produced from ecosystems are food , fibre , and fresh water.

Examples of ecological services produced from ecosystems are climate regulation, storing carbon, pollination , beautiful viewscapes, and great places for recreation.

Consider a wetland like a Marsh, a Swamp, or a Bog. What services do wetlands provide us?

Wetlands act like sponges: they absorb water during times of high rainfall or flooding, and then slowly release it as the land dries out. So one thing wetlands can do is help to slow down the movement of water into rivers and this can reduce the risk of flash floods. 

Remember the hydrograph from the watershed video? Flood damage is often caused by peak water flows. Wetlands absorb water and can help to decrease the height of the peak. In dry periods, wetlands slowly release the water they store back into the environment.

Wetlands also purify water. The soils and vegetation in a wetland help trap sediments and pollutants suspended in water, filtering and cleaning it.

So, the “goods” provided by the wetland are clean water and the “services” are things like flood control, reducing the impact of a drought, or water purification.

The decomposition of plant material by decomposers and microorganisms is an ecological service resulting in the production of soil - an ecological good. Dispersing seeds or the pollination of plants by birds and insects is another ecological service helping to grow plants - ecological goods.

Other ecological services like nutrient cycling, renewal of natural vegetation, protection from the sun’s harmful rays, and control of pests, provide important ecological goods like soil renewal, food production, and raw building materials.

Purifying water using treatment plants can be expensive to build and operate. Healthy ecosystems in our watersheds can reduce how much purification is needed and reduce this cost. In addition, ecosystems help our communities benefit from other services such as flood protections, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and cleaner air.

Ecosystems are impacted by our land-use. If we degrade or lose these ecosystems then we won’t get the benefit of their ecological goods and services.

People are learning more and more about the importance of the goods and services our healthy ecosystems provide and how they contribute to the overall health of our communities.

We can learn from ecosystems like wetlands. Knowing how they work and understanding the important values they provide, we can shape our land-use in ways that reduce the negative impacts of our footprint.

One example of this is whether our parking lots are able to absorb water or whether they will collect it into storm drains. We can choose to make parking areas impermeable by paving a parking area with asphalt or concrete –(normal parking lot) but then we have to collect the water into a storm sewer and discharge it somewhere else. This reduces the chance of water being re-absorbed into the ground and can increase the risks of transporting pollutants from the parking area into a water body.

Or we can construct a parking lot with permeable materials and allow water to be absorbed into the ground more naturally and perhaps trap or slow the movement of pollutants into open water.

Use BC Tomorrow to change the amount of wetland, grassland, and forest to see how they are able to provide ecological goods and services by maintaining water quality, carbon storage and controlling carbon dioxide emissions.

British Columbia's future is in your hands! See what you can do!

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