An ecosystem refers to animals, plants, and organisms that live in one common habitat with favorable conditions (Breshears & Graumlich, 2001). Therefore, ecosystem services are the products that are acquired from the ecosystem. The importance of ecosystem services can be dated back to Plato, who had understood that deforestation could lead to soil erosion. Modern ideas of the ecosystem services began with Marsh in 1864 who purported that the earth’s natural resources were unbounded by pointing out changes in soil fertility in the Mediterranean (Goldman, 2010). It is for this reason that the paper seeks to find out the importance of ecosystem services and how they are affected by climate change
Ecosystem services refer to the benefits accumulated from the ecosystems. In essence, it refers to the products and services provided by the ecosystems. Firstly, there are the provision services, which refer to all the products that are supplied from the ecosystems (Banerjee & Mishra, 2015). The products are fuel, ornamental resources, food, and fiber. Secondly, there are regulating services, which are the benefits obtained from the regulation of ecosystem processes. The services include climate regulation that occurs when alterations in land cover affect temperature. The ecosystems play a role in climate by emitting the greenhouse gasses. Also, ecosystems help in erosion control, soil retention, and prevention of landslides. Ecosystems help to regulate human diseases by altering the abundance of disease vectors. They help in pollination by affecting the effectiveness of pollinators and in sheltering storms by using mangroves and coral reefs, which reduce damage caused by hurricanes. Ecosystems are also helpful in purifying and processing of water by filtering out and decomposing organic wastes found in the water. They also help in air quality maintenance by contributing chemicals to and from extract chemicals from the air.
Thirdly, cultural services, which are non-material benefits, are derived from the ecosystems. They include spiritual and religious values where many religions attach spiritual and religious value on ecosystems. In fact, ecosystems influence the character of knowledge systems developed by different civilizations and provide a deep source of aspiration for artistic creation, architecture, advertising, folklore, and national symbols (Hester & Harrison, 2010). Ecosystems help many people see beauty through the existence of parks as well as influence social relations that are grounded in particular cultures, for instance, where there are lakes; fishing societies shall emerge. Lastly, ecosystems help to determine the educational values that exist by providing the foundation for both formal and informal training in many societies. In essence, they promote recreation by ensuring that people spend their leisure time in attractive landscapes. The cultural services are bound to human values and behavior as well as human institutions and patterns of the social, economic, and political system.
Lastly, the supporting services are necessary for the production of all ecosystem services. The services are dissimilar from the other services mentioned above, in that they affect the people indirectly and occur over a long period. The services have a short-term effect on the people and the production of oxygen gas, water recycling, and provision of habitats, as well as land formation and retention.
Global Climate Change
The climate is the most significant element that influences ecosystems and the flow of energy and materials through the ecosystem. Climate change involves some factors that affect the ecosystem and hence affect the provision of ecosystem services (Jacobs, Dendoncker & Keune, 2014). The factors associated with climate change include temperature, rainfall, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, floods, droughts, sea level rise, saline intrusion, acidification of oceans, extreme storm events, sediment, and food.
Effects of Climate Change on ecosystem services
Climate change alters the ecosystem services in the various ways. Firstly, it will lead to a rise in diseases and pathogens by supporting the spread of diseases and pathogens that thrive in the presence of carbon dioxide. The diseases will have severe effects on human health, agriculture, and fisheries. Secondly, climate change will contribute to species extinction; this occurs when the temperature rises, most of the plant and animal species cannot survive. For instance, when the sea level rises, salt water mixes with fresh water, which eventually forces species to relocate or die.
Thirdly, climate change will lead to migration of a peculiar species by forcing them to migrate to higher latitudes where the temperature is more conducive to their survival. Fourthly, climate change determines the changes in the timing of seasonal life cycle events. Indeed, many species are influenced by the climate, especially in the main stages of their annual life cycle, which includes migration, mating, and even blooming. For example, warmer springs have necessitated earlier nesting of the migratory birds. The climate changes can lead to mismatches in the timing of migration, breeding, and food availability. Development and survival are reduced when the migrants arrive at a location before or after the food sources are available.
Moreover, climate change can lead to disruption of the food network, thereby affecting many organisms. For instance, a decrease in the duration and extent of the sea ice in the Arctic leads to decline in the abundance of ice algae (Battarbee, 2010). Furthermore, climate change will lead to increase in the growth of weeds since most weeds respond well to carbon dioxide. A warmer climate may affect the seasons, consequently affecting agricultural output (Locateli, 2015). Some lands will no longer be possible to cultivate, a situation that will eventually lead to changes in the growing seasons, thus, affecting crop production.
The rise in temperature will have an impact on fish stocks both on the marine and freshwater. Increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will lead to acidification of the oceans. In fact, changes in temperature will affect the vegetation cover, a situation that promotes erosion. The increase in night temperature during the reproductive period of plants for either plants or fruits increases the respiration rate and offsets the photosynthetic gains during the day. Therefore, plants that will be grown under high nighttime temperatures will have smaller fruits hence reducing productivity. Climate change will also lengthen the growing season, for instance, it will extend fodder production into the late fall and early spring.
On the other hand, the rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will increase photosynthesis, thus favoring the forests, which will eventually increase, hence increase in wood. (Bernstein, 2002). Likewise, by increasing the quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, plants that require more carbon such as tomatoes, cotton, and beans will thrive than other plants.
Ways of Countering Climate Change
Organisms can counter climate change in two main ways. They can do this either by mitigation or adaptation. Through mitigation, organisms will be expected to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses by replacing carbon dioxide fuels. Adaptation can occur when people diversify crops, use of drip irrigation, conserving wildlife, as well as constructing buildings that conserve energy.
Attempts to lessen the consequences on the organisms and ecosystems from climate change should focus on maintaining habitats as well as keeping the overall ecosystem structure. Humans should also ensure that they protect the ecosystems to continue enjoying the ecosystem services. In essence, the ecosystem services are important since they are responsible for man’s survival. Therefore, to deal with climate change, organisms will be forced to adjust to the changes; the adjustments will eventually help them to migrate to other better environments.