"Functions and values" can only be understood in the context of the "Ecosystem Services Model." The notion that humans are dependent on earth's ecosystems is an ancient one, but in the last 50 years (and especially in the last decade), this basic truth has been expanded into a full-fledged ecological-economic theory. Inherent to that theory is the notion that the ecosystem produces goods and services that have value to mankind. As Wikipedia says,
Humankind benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems. Collectively, these benefits are known as ecosystem services and include products like clean drinking water and processes such as the decomposition of wastes. While scientists and environmentalists have discussed ecosystem services for decades, these services were popularized and their definitions formalized by the United Nations 2005 Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), a four-year study involving more than 1,300 scientists worldwide. This grouped ecosystem services into four broad categories: provisioning, such as the production of food and water; regulating, such as the control of climate and disease; supporting, such as nutrient cycles and crop pollination; and cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits.As noted, the Ecosystem Services Model has been the subject of reports from the UN's Millenium Ecosystem Assessment but also from our own National Research Council. The content of those reports will be the basis for this mini-series on "functions and values."
For now, let me leave you with a diagram from a National Research Council report showing the inter-relationships between ecosystem structure, ecosystem functions, production of ecosystem goods and services, and valuation of those goods and services. We'll walk through this diagram in posts to come.