The 2005 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) report defined ecosystem services as “the benefits people obtain from ecosystems” and categorized them as supporting, provisioning, regulating, and cultural. The MEA explanatory diagram defined the links between human wellbeing and ecosystem services in terms of security, basic material for a good life, health and good social relations.
IUCN Water decided to revisit this MEA diagram, redrawing it to further emphasize the complex and dynamic relationship between ecosystem services and the components of human well being from a freshwater perspective. The new diagram aims to more intuitively demonstrate the extent to which both rich and poor livelihoods are dependent on the sustainability of ecosystems and the variety of services that they provide.
Where ecosystem services are not maintained through, for example, river basin and land management, or choices are made which prioritize food production which can degrade the ecosystem, benefits to human wellbeing may be dramatically reduced. Equally, external factors such as climate change can adversely affect the stock of services an ecosystem provides. This breakdown in services means that people may get fewer benefits from nature.
The other graphic demonstrates a decline in ecosystem services due to degradation or exploitation. Where these linkages break down, choices can be made to invest in restoration of ecosystem services and in turn can bring back the benefits they provide.