Ecosystem Services: from science to practice

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The concept of "ecosystem services" was developed in the late 1970s but is recently attracting increased attention. Actually, the thinking about human dependence on nature goes back to Plato (400 BC) but until the mid-1990’s it was a very small community of mainly enlightened economists (eg Herman Daly (USA), David Pearce (UK) and, in the Netherlands, Roefie Hueting), and a few ‘heretic’ ecologist, including myself, trying to dis-entangle and quantify the many benefits and economic values of nature. These early writers were being looked at quite 'suspicious' in the beginning, both by ecologists and by mainstream economist: valuing nature in economic terms was not done because it was supposed to be un-ethical or impossible. After the release of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (in 2005, and the TEEB-study on the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (in 2010, ) this niche-existence changed dramatically (see figure). The concept of Ecosystem Services has now become mainstream, not only in science but also in the policy-arena. illustrated by the creation of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services ( in 2011. One of the general messages of the TEEB study was that the loss of ecosystem services is costing us between 2-3 trillion $/year in damage and repair-costs. As a result of this notion the EU member states recently agreed to conduct National Ecosystem Services assessments by 2020 with the development of National ES maps by 2014 as a first step. To stimulate the process of linking science with practice, my department was instrumental in the creation of the Ecosystem Services partnership in 2008 ( ESP is a global platform for exchange of experience and discussion and is growing very rapidly. In 2012, ESP launched a special Journal called ‘Ecosystem Services: science, policy and practice’ ( and the first Issue was published a few weeks ago. If you want to know more about this emerging and exciting field of inter-disciplinary science you are very welcome to join the partnership and share your experiences and ideas.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputOnline
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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