Ecosystem services' is the term used to define the biological and physical inputs to humanity that are provided by nature:
These systems have to be managed by governments and environmental agencies, which also support the involvement of individuals and communities in making environmental adjustments to their habitat to improve local well being.

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Processes in the inner zones are fundamental to management of processes in the outer zones

Ecosystem management

In 2009 the United National Environment Programme introduced its Ecosystem Management Programme. The Programme aims to promote a change in the piecemeal (i.e., sector by sector) ‘silo thinking’ approach to environmental management and move to an approach that integrates the management of forests, agriculture, protected nature sites, freshwater, and coastal systems where they impact upon the overall delivery of ecosystem services to communities.

The Ecosystem Management Programme is a programme for government and will work towards assisting countries and regions to:
  • integrate an ecosystem approach into development and planning processes;
  • acquire and improve the capacity to use ecosystem management tools; and
  • realign their environmental programmes and financing to tackle the degradation of priority ecosystem services.

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, the ecosystem approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promote conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way. It recognizes that humans, are an integral component of many ecosystems.

The ecosystem approach recognises that we are part of nature in everything we do from painting a house to turning off a dripping tap. An appreciation of this will affect the level of connectedness an individual feels towards an environment and will also affect the level of concern for the use of environmental services, and the management decisions that affect their availability. towards the use of environmental services as an integral part of this connectedness. The ecosystem approach is an integral part of this connectedness. It should also promotes the idea that environmental services are not 'on tap' with an infinite capacity to respond to demand.

The ecosystem approach therefore includes the assumption that effective decision-making on the use of environmental resources requires proper empowerment, so that stakeholders have the opportunity and capacity to carry out appropriate action to secure a sustainable use of environmental services supported by enabling policy and law. This highlights another key principal of the ecosystem approach that management decisions should be decentralised to the lowest appropriate level to achieve greater efficiency, effectiveness and equity.


Cultural services
'Cultural services' is the umbrella term used for the non-material benefits that people obtain from ecosystems, such as spiritual enrichment, intellectual development, reflection, religious experience, and recreation. It comprises knowledge systems, social relations, aesthetic values and appreciation of nature.

-Recreation and ecotourism. Healthy ecosystems which offer opportunities for outdoor recreation and nature-based tourism are becoming an increasingly important economic resource. Far beyond providing an aesthetic experience only for the privileged, ecotourism has great potential - and proven success in many parts of the world - for alleviating poverty and improving human well-being.

Supporting service
Supporting services are necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services. Not surprisingly, these relate to fundamental environmental processes and intangible values. Their impacts are either indirect or occur over a very long time. Examples of supporting services include biomass production, production of atmospheric oxygen, soil formation and retention, nutrient cycling, water cycling, and provisioning of habitat.
Nutrient cycling. Approximately 20 nutrients essential for life, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and calcium, are absorbed, retained and recycled by ecosystems. Phytoplankton - microscopic plants - in lakes, rivers and the sea absorb nutrients from runoff and pass them up the food chain. Soil organisms - from microbes and fungi to earthworms and insects - are crucial to the chemical conversion and physical transfer of essential nutrients to higher plants. In simplified low-diversity agricultural landscapes, this capacity is much reduced. Many parts of the world suffer from inadequate nutrients in their soils and food, while others must deal with excessive nutrients leading to overload and eutrophication(depletion of oxygen in the water). The life-sustaining production of organic compounds, mainly through photosynthesis by green plants and algae, is known as primary production. All life on Earth relies directly or indirectly on primary production, yet we know very little about its natural limits or its risk of collapse under increasing pressure from climate change and other environmental factors.

Provisioning services
Provisioning services are the products obtained from ecosystems. These include food, freshwater, wood, fibre, genetic resources and medicines. Of particular interest to UNEP are:

-Freshwater. The well-being of both ecosystems and humans is strongly dependent on this vital ecosystem service, which provides people with water for domestic use, irrigation, power generation, and transportation. The natural availability of freshwater in rivers, lakes and other aquifers varies considerably, however, and demand has exploded over the last century. This has led to the construction of dams, irrigation channels, river embankments and inter-basin canals, often at the cost of ecosystem degradation.

-Energy. This ecosystem service was mentioned as 'biomass energy' in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. The increased production of biofuels to replace such fossil fuels as wood and charcoal - of particular importance to poor people - has provoked keen debate about the potential impacts of this production on ecosystem and human well being. Hydropower as a low carbon energy source is dependent on freshwater related ecosystem services (provided, for example, by dams) and can also have major impacts on upstream and downstream ecosystems.
Fisheries. Marine and freshwater fisheries are in decline, in spite of increasing demand. Fish protein is of particular importance to poor people. Overfishing is the main problem, but keeping aquatic ecosystems healthy can help sustain populations in the face of growing demand.

Performance indicators

An example of a set of performance indicators for citizens compiled at State Level is given below for New Jersey in the US.

Find out the current air quality and forecast in your part of New Jersey. Updated hourly.
This site has information on drought indicators, water use restrictions, current reservoir and rainfall levels, as well as tips on how you can help conserve water.

The Known Contaminated Sites in New Jersey report is a municipal listing of sites where contamination of soil and/or ground water is confirmed at levels greater than the applicable cleanup criteria or standards.

Find out if there are any bathing restrictions at any of New Jersey beaches. Updated daily or more frequently, if necessary.

Discover what lands have been purchased by the Green Acres Program at NJDEP that have become part of our system of state parks, forests, natural areas, and wildlife management areas.

You can obtain background information about your municipal drinking water system, the facilities it has, water monitoring schedules, plus a wide variety of water quality information including total coliform bacteria results and monitoring results for individual chemicals, and enforcement data.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service measures and monitors the dryness of forest fuels and the possibility of fire ignitions becoming wildfires. This information is used for fire preparedness planning, which includes the following initiatives: campfire and burning restrictions, fire patrol assignments, staffing of fire lookout towers and readiness status for both observation and firefighting aircraft.

New Jersey State Police - Office of Emergency Management, Mitigation Division, the US Geological Survey, the National Weather Service and NJDEP work closely to provide data on potential flooding and emergency management. This link will forward you to the USGS New Jersey Flood Watch website for current flood emergency information, including map locations of streamgages where the water level is currently at or above flood stage or at high flow. Helps you decide the right fish for you to eat. This page contains information on freshwater, marine water and local waterbody advisories as well as the benefits of eating fish.