Definition: Ecosystem Services

People obtain many benefits from the ocean and coast, such as seafood, recreational opportunities, climate regulation, renewable energy, and spiritual fulfillment. These benefits are called nature's services or ecosystem services. According to the Millennium Ecological Assessment, there are 4 primary categories of ecosystem services:

  • Provisioning services are the products obtained from ecosystems, such as food, genetic resources, fiber, and energy.
  • Regulating services are the benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes, such as regulation of climate, water, and some human diseases.
  • Cultural services are the non-material benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experience.
  • Supporting services are ecosystem services that are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services. Examples include biomass production, production of atmospheric oxygen, nutrient cycling, water cycling, and provisioning of habitat.