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Determining desirable levels of ecosystem services per capita


Ecosystem services are the numerous, essential processes that natural ecosystems provide free to human societies. Examples include the maintenance of breathable air; the movement, storage, and purification of water; the breakdown of wastes; and the provision of food, building materials, and medicines. However, the exponential increases in human population and concomitant environmental destruction make it likely that the level of ecosystem services available per capita will decline. There are three possible scenarios. First, if present practices continue, ecosystem services per capita will surely decline. Second, if a no-net-loss policy is implemented for habitats and species, ecosystem services per capita will still decline due to increases in human population, but the declines will be less precipitous. Third, if habitat is restored (including concomitant ecosystem services) at a rate exceeding that of destruction, then, perhaps the current level of ecosystem services per capita can be maintained, or even expanded to provide increased levels of ecosystem services per capita to more of the world's people.

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Cairns, J. Determining desirable levels of ecosystem services per capita . Journal of Aquatic Ecosystem Health 2, 237–242 (1993).

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  • ecosystem services per capita
  • population growth
  • no-net-loss
  • biodiversity
  • habitat conservation