Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 4, pp 781–790 | Cite as

Questioning the ecosystem services argument for biodiversity conservation

  • Ben RidderEmail author
Original Paper


One of the central justifications for the conservation of biodiversity is the notion that species diversity is essential for the maintenance of ecosystem services. However, an important observation overlooked by proponents of this argument is that most ecosystem services are provided not by whole ecosystems, but by any group of species that fulfils certain basic functional criteria. Distinguishing between services that are resilient in response to species decline, and those that are not, is a far less challenging task than identifying the precise influence on ecosystem functioning of rare species. Conservationists have been almost unanimous in their failure to acknowledge this distinction between resilient and sensitive ecosystem services. Not only does this threaten the credibility of conservation science, but also increases the likelihood that natural area management becomes hijacked by the demand that ecosystem service provision be made the dominant management criteria.


Biodiversity Ecosystem collapse Ecosystem services Intangible values Resilience Species extinction 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia

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