This article was originally published on Daily News.
“Forest biodiversity and ecosystems provide a broad array of both tangible and intangible services and goods. They include the most obvious ones like the food we eat (mushrooms and wild fruits like Divul, Hal, Himbutu), fresh water we drink and clean air we breathe, essentially the primary life-support systems. Then we obtain plant materials such as fire-wood, medicinals (Weni wel, Kothala himbutu etc.) and aromatics (Walla patta of recent fame) and other forest raw materials for our domestic consumption and industries. Though less obvious, forests and other such green spaces sustain processes that purify air and water, breakdown waste products, sequester carbon, cycle nutrients and maintain soil fertility, all of which we take for granted and hardly pay any attention to their sustainability.
Ecosystem services therefore, are the benefits provided by various ecosystems to human well-being which in common parlance is known as ‘health, wealth and happiness’. These are often bundled together as provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report prepared in 2005. However, there are other ecosystem values which have no known benefit to humans as yet, but are of intrinsic value to the web of life on earth.
In addition, forests also perform regulatory functions such as flood control, climate amelioration, air and water quality regulation, pest and disease control and supporting services such as pollination, seed dispersal, nutrient cycling and primary production of foods mostly by fixing carbon dioxide that is available in the atmosphere. Likewise, they also provide invaluable cultural services such as spiritual, aesthetic, recreational and educational values for the wholesome well-being of humans and all other living organisms. Yet today, all these life-sustaining systems, collectively known as ecosystem services, provided by forests and other such landscapes are largely taken for granted and perceived as public benefits or ‘free lunches’ in modern society’s balance sheet. Despite being fundamental to the well-being of human societies, critical contribution of ecosystem services have hitherto been overlooked in public, corporate and individual decision making processes, primarily because they are public services rendered by Mother Nature free of charge…”
Read on at: Daily News.