School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

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What is an ecosystem service?

To understand an ecosystem service we need to understand how we define ecosystems. An ecosystem is a community of animals and plants interacting with one another and with their physical environment. Ecosystems include physical and chemical components, such as soils, water, and nutrients that support the organisms living within them. These organisms may range from large animals and plants to microscopic bacteria. Ecosystems include the interactions among all organisms in a given habitat. People are part of ecosystems. The health and well being of human populations depends upon the services provided by ecosystems and their components - organisms, soil, water, and nutrients. These are called ecosystem services. We often take them for granted but a healthy ecosystem provides things like clean water, timber, and habitat for fisheries, and pollination of native and agricultural plants.

Find more information, visit the Ecological Society of America.

Grade Level: 12

To learn more about ecosystems, try this link.

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Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.