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Healthy ecosystems are ecological life-support systems. Lands and waters that function to provide goods and services that are vital to human health and livelihood are natural assets that are increasingly referred to as ecosystem services. These services can include clear air, high quality water, carbon sequestration benefits, and habitats that support a range of economically and ecologically valuable resources.
As NOAA’s Ecosystem Services 101 explains ecosystem services, which provide direct and indirect benefits to people, can be grouped into four categories:
Some examples of ecosystem services are shown in the table below:
Numerous case studies demonstrate how the conservation community is incorporating the protection and enhancement of ecosystem services into their stewardship missions and projects to meet multiple beneficial management objectives. While there are many ways to estimate the value of the benefits of natural resources, such assessments are increasingly being used to help inform environmental decision making.