Ecosystem services - nature’s benefits

Nature provides us with natural resources and raw materials, insect pollination and soil formation, and it improves our health and well-being.

Nature is essential for human life. Nature provides us with water, clean air and food, and raw materials for medicines, industry and buildings. Our crops rely on insect pollination and the complex biological processes that create soil. Enjoying parks, landscapes and wildlife improves our health and well-being.

All of these benefits, which are sometimes known as ecosystem services, depend on a healthy environment.

The loss of nature affects our economy, our culture and our daily life as individuals. Investing in nature – biodiversity and ecosystems, geodiversity and landscapes – will help to secure these benefits for future generations.

To look after nature, we must work with nature rather than against it, and work together across all sectors. In nature, everything is connected.

Following an ecosystem approach means understanding these connections, and taking account of ecosystem services in how we manage land, freshwater and sea.

Economic value of ecosystem services

Most of us appreciate the ecosystem services that we come across in our daily lives, even if we don’t know their true value.

The overall value of nature to people and its economic importance have been shown by two studies:

For example:

  • Scotland’s peatland soils are estimated to store 10 times more carbon than all of the UK’s trees together
  • insect pollination services in Scotland are valued at an estimated £43 million per year

The National Ecosystem Assessment shows that since the 1950s, changes to Scotland’s natural environment have led to a decline in the overall benefits from nature.

For nature, there have been adverse changes in:

  • land use
  • air, water and soil quality
  • wildlife populations

Water quality has recently improved. We must now work together to make the most of nature’s benefits and build a sustainable future for Scotland.

Find out more about ecosystem services

The Ecosystem Knowledge Network has information on mapping and assessing ecosystem services.

You can also watch these two short films about why it pays to look after nature:

Or read our report to learn how communities can harness the natural environment to improve health, support the economy and reduce inequalities:
Natural benefits: The contribution of the natural environment to Community Planning Partnership priorities