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Adequate biodiversity is not shown in large-scale assessments of ecosystem services

Functioning ecosystems provide the foundation for security, basic physical needs, health, social interaction, and individual freedom. This is how it was described by the 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, dividing ecosystem services into the following categories: provisioning services; Goods such as food, water, firewood, timber, and planning services; Pollination, soil water filtering function, flood and erosion protection, and cultural services; Entertainment, places of inspiration and education. Many of these services are indirectly and directly related to the existence of the species. For this reason, species conservation is often put forward as a measure to preserve vital natural services.

Lead author Professor Henrique Pereira of iDiv and MLU said: “However, most of the previous studies argue that areas important for ecosystem services do not necessarily coincide with those important for conserving biodiversity.” “We were able to show that this is probably because these studies only look at a few ecosystem services, and species-related services are rarely among them.”

In their new study, the researchers selected nine different species-related environmental services for which data on the occurrence and distribution of the species they provide in Europe were available. These are wild food, medicinal plants, fodder, pest control, carcass removal, seed dispersal, wildlife control, hunting and existence value; This is the benefit we derive from knowing that rare and endangered species still exist. To find out which species offered these services, they searched databases for functional characteristics such as medicinal value, food suitability, but also their importance for hunting and wildlife observing.

The researchers then created individual maps of how these providers were distributed in Europe. Then they did the same for nine typical biophysical system services unrelated to species, such as agricultural production, livestock and carbon storage. They compared these maps in computer models and calculated where spatial overlap exists and how different ecosystem services affect each other.

The results show that, especially at the larger spatial scale, biophysical and species-related ecosystem services often occur simultaneously. This becomes more apparent as more ecosystem services are considered. Thus the regions in which species conservation and ecosystem services play a role coincide more often than previously assumed. Negative associations between the two approaches are found mostly to agricultural production, which, among other things, limits the regulation of ecosystem services such as water purification and cultural services such as natural beauty.

“Through our study, we show that there are strong links between species diversity and ecosystem services,” said first author Dr Sylvia Chiu, who conducted the study at iDiv and MLU. Most recently she joined the Center for Biodiversity and Environmental Research at University College London. These linkages must be made more explicit in assessments of nature’s contributions to human well-being in order to fully understand how these benefits are managed and protected for humans. ”

“We still lack biodiversity data to truly map species-based ecosystem services at large scales,” said Henrique Pereira. “So we need more research on the issue of how ecosystem services depend on landscapes and regional scale on the abundance and traits of existing species.” For Europe, researchers are currently establishing the EuropaBON project, which aims to make this and other similar data available to stakeholders in the future.

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