Ecosystem services in agroecosystems
Ecosystem services are defined as the goods and services that humans can get from ecosystems, directly or indirectly, in order to ensure their well-being (food, water quality, landscapes, …). This notion, which emerged from the interface between economics and ecology, is based on the postulate that a value, often monetary, can be assigned to nature. It is partly for this reason that the notion of ecosystem services is the subject of much debate. In particular, there is an alternative vision that highlights the interest of this notion of ecosystem services to reveal and better understand human-nature interactions.
In agroecosystems, ecosystem services have the particularity of being co-produced by nature and humans. For instance, the provisioning service (agricultural production) results from both human activities and ecological processes such as pollination. Also, the quality of rural landscapes is the product of the interaction between local environmental conditions and human activities.
Agroecology strongly mobilizes ecosystem services, whether those contributing to agricultural production (pollination, soil fertility), thus enabling a reduction in the use of chemical inputs, or those provided by agriculture to society (landscapes, water quality). The concept of ecosystem services is particularly relevant in the context of permanent grassland systems. Indeed, by limiting inputs and adapting practices to the environment’ potential (altitude, exposure, type of soil, …), farmers sustain a diversified semi-natural vegetation while providing herds with an annual grass-based resource. In addition to the production of quality products (PDO, …), these farming systems provide society with many ecosystem services (water quality, biodiversity, aesthetic landscapes, carbon storage, …). It is nowadays possible, thanks to multifunctional typologies of permanent grasslands, to establish links between this plant biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services.
References to explore
Alcamo, J., 2003. Ecosystems and human well-being: a framework for assessment. Island Press, Washington, DC, USA. 245p.
Duru, M., Therond, O., Martin, G., Martin-Clouaire, R., Magne, M.A., Justes, E., Journet, E.P., Aubertot, J.N., Savary, S., Bergez, J.E. and Sarthou, J.P., 2015. How to implement biodiversity-based agriculture to enhance ecosystem services: a review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 35(4), pp.1259-1281.
Díaz, S., Demissew, S., Carabias, J., Joly, C., Lonsdale, M., Ash, N., Larigauderie, A., Adhikari, J.R., Arico, S., Báldi, A. and Bartuska, A., 2015. The IPBES Conceptual Framework—connecting nature and people. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 14, pp.1-16.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Ecosystem Services. Commission on Ecosystem Management.
The OpenNESS project library – Operationalisation of Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services. ECNC-European Centre for Nature Conservation.