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What Are Ecosystem Services, and How Do They Help Our Planet?

Protecting diverse ecosystems and the natural benefits that they provide is essential to the future of life on our planet and the well-being of humanity. Those services, which are often called ecosystem services, include providing resources such as food and water, maintaining habitats that support biodiversity, offering opportunities for recreation, and helping to regulate human-caused...

Protecting diverse ecosystems and the natural benefits that they provide is essential to the future of life on our planet and the well-being of humanity.

Those services, which are often called ecosystem services, include providing resources such as food and water, maintaining habitats that support biodiversity, offering opportunities for recreation, and helping to regulate human-caused impacts like climate change.

Healthy, diverse ecosystems are responsible for the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the natural places that we visit to nurture our bodies and minds. They support the species that, in turn, sustain human life. “Every morsel of food, every sip of water, the air we breathe is the result of work done by another species,” says Enric Sala, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and the leader of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas Initiative. “Without them, there is no us.”

When it comes to mitigating the impacts of climate change, ecosystem services really shine. Studies have shown that the natural world can provide one-third of all climate mitigation efforts. Land and marine ecosystems currently absorb about half of the human-generated carbon dioxide emissions, with forests alone removing 2.6 billion tons of carbon from the atmosphere each year. 

Ecosystems must stay intact and healthy to receive the myriad of benefits that they provide. Campaign for Nature is a global effort to raise awareness of the threats facing our natural world and inspire world leaders to take action to protect 30 percent of the planet by 2030.

The protection of 30 percent of the planet by 2030 is a critical milestone toward protecting 50 percent of the planet by 2050, a benchmark that scientists say will ensure the health and diversity of ecosystems across the globe. The goal is challenging yet attainable—and our future depends on it.

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