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Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services originate in healthy and functioning natural environments. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment divides ecosystem services into four categories: provisioning services include the basic necessities we consume and require for our well-being; regulating services provide us with a habitable environment; cultural services benefit people in a non-material manner; and supporting services enable ecosystems to flourish. An ecosystem's ability to provide services is improved when preserved, reconnected and restored, and compromised when disturbed, fragmented and degraded. Despite the valuable ecosystem services that natural environments provide us, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment reports that 60 per cent of the world's ecosystems are being degraded and utilized unsustainably.

Society—and often individual businesses—can be better off protecting and restoring ecosystems for their goods and services rather than attempting to engineer alternatives that might cause other unknown problems. Practical applications of such a ecosystem goods and services (EGS) framework include environmental markets such as carbon and water quality trading and specific instruments such as payments for ecosystem services.

The Water Innovation Centre (WIC) provides cross-sectoral research, analysis and outreach in the management of ecosystem services with a focus on watershed-based agricultural ecosystems, including policy instruments such as payments for ecosystem services, water quality trading and reverse auctions processes.

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