Nature provides a free lunch, but only if we control our appetites. -- William Ruckelshaus
Ecosystem services — the benefits to human well-being that nature provides — is gaining traction as a buzzword in the conservation community.
While the idea isn’t new, understanding of how broad its impacts and applications are has evolved tremendously in recent years. The Nature Conservancy considers ecosystem services in our conservation activity, fostering conservation that is both good for biodiversity and good for human well-being. Listing the full magnitude of benefits to human well-being from ecosystem services would be a daunting task. Instead, we use this page to introduce the concept and highlight a few of those many benefits.
A quick example of the concept:
In New York City, where the quality of drinking water had fallen below standards required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), authorities opted to restore the polluted Catskill Watershed that had previously provided the city with the ecosystem service of water purification. The cost of this investment in natural capital was estimated between $1-1.5 billion, which contrasted dramatically with the estimated $6-8 billion cost of constructing a water filtration plant plus the $300 million annual running costs.
To explore examples of our Indiana projects that provide ecosystem services, click on a feature below.
Learn how the Conservancy's on-the-ground conservation work has an impact on Fort Wayne's drinking water.