Increasingly we are seeing the terms ‘ecosystem services’, ‘ecosystem functioning’ and ‘ecosystem processes’ in the media and the scientific literature, to highlight the benefits the natural environment provides to our wellbeing. Invasive species, from bivalves to balsams, have the potential to impact on ecosystem services, though it is widely accepted that there are gaps in our understanding within this field.
Ecosystem services can be defined as the ecosystem processes that we as humans benefit from and they can be categorised into four groups:
Provisioning: The ecosystem provides products essential for our everyday needs including timber, fuel, food, genetic resources and medicine.
Regulating: We gain from natural services including pollination of wild plants and crops by bees, by rivers and floodplains providing natural flood management, and climatic regulation.
Cultural: We benefit from natural spaces for recreation and social activity. We find harmony in natural areas that are aesthetically pleasing.
Supporting: These services underpin all of those mentioned above. Biological diversity promotes stability and a healthy ecosystem, nutrient acquisition and flow through the ecosystem by fungal and invertebrate decomposers, and primary production.