Environmental Services in Environmental Education

 Valdir Lamim-Guedes, Global Education Magazine,,Valdir Lamim-Guedes

Laboratório de Estudos Avançados em Jornalismo (Labjor), Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), Campinas, Brasil. 

e-mail: dirguedes@yahoo.com.br   web: http://naraiz.wordpress.com/


Absctract: Life quality passes by maintenance of some natural conditions and processes through that the ecosystems and species support human life. It’s relevant to speak about this concept with students, pointing out our dependence on nature. It’s necessary to show the consequences of the loss of environmental services, presenting solutions to contribute to this services’ maintenance. We need to demonstrate the loss of habitats, ecological interactions and species generate bigger losses than profits from natural resources and agricultural production’s exploitation.

Keywords: Environmental services; Environmental education; Natural Resources; Environmental impacts; Loss of habitats.


Serviços Ambientais na Educação

Resumo: A qualidade de vida passa pela manutenção de certas condições e processos naturais através dos quais os ecossistemas e as espécies que os compõem sustentam a vida humana. É relevante tratar com os alunos sobre este conceito, destacando a nossa dependência da natureza. Devem-se deixar claras as consequências da perda dos serviços ambientais, apresentando soluções para colaborar com a manutenção destes serviços. Precisamos demonstrar que a perda de habitats, interações ecológicas e espécies geram perdas que superam muito os lucros advindos da exploração de recursos naturais e produção agrícola.

Palavras-chave: Serviços ambientais, Educação Ambiental; Recursos Naturais; impactos ambientais, perda de habitats.



The Environmental Sustainability is a concept associated to the sustainable development that involves the use of natural resources, from a longterm perspective. In other words, it is the use of natural resources in order to allow the replenishment of renewable resources and the sparingly and efficient use of the nonrenewable. The Environmental sustainability is characterized by the maintenance of the environment’s ability to provide permanently environmental services and resources to the development of human societies.

Ecosystem services are broadly defined as the benefits provided by ecosystems to humans; they contribute to making human life both possible and worth living (DAILY, 1997). In fact, the welfare of all human populations of the world depends directly on ecosystem services (TEEB, 2010). Biodiversity affects numerous ecosystem services, both indirectly and directly. Some ecosystem processes confer direct benefits on humanity, but many of them confer benefits primarily via indirect interactions (MEA, 2005). Ecosystem services include: provisioning services, regulating services, cultural services and support services. The existence of these services depends directly on the environmental protection and preservation, as well as on the practices that minimize the impacts of human actions on the environment.

What Are Ecosystem Services?

Ecosystem services are the conditions and processes through which natural ecosystems, and the species that make them up, sustain and fulfill human life. They maintain biodiversity and the production of ecosystem goods, such as seafood, forage, timber, biomass fuels, natural fiber, and many pharmaceuticals, industrial products, and their precursors.

Linkages between Ecosystem Services and Human Well-Begins

Linkages between Ecosystem Services and Human Well-Begins, Global Education Magazine

Figure: Linkages between Ecosystem Services and Human Well-being. Source: Adapted of Millenium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA), (2005).

The harvest and trade of these goods represent an important and familiar part of the human economy. In addition to the production of goods, ecosystem services are the actual lifesupport functions, such as cleansing, recycling, and renewal, and they confer many intangible aesthetic and cultural benefits as well (Daily, 1997).

Example of Ecosystem Service

Pollination is one of the main Ecosystem services for human populations. According to data from FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization), 33% of human food depends, at some level, of cultivated plants pollinated by bees (KLEIN et al., 2007).

Bee (Xylocopa sp.) in the flower, Global Education Magazine

Figure : Bee (Xylocopa sp.) in the flower of passion fruit in Juazeiro, Pernambuco, Brazil. Source: Viana (2006).

Biodiversity used in food and agriculture (e.g., pest control and pollination) includes the components of biological diversity that are essential to human feeding and to improve quality of life, such as the variety of ecosystems, animals, plants and micro-organisms, at the genetic level, specific and needed ecosystems to sustain human life, as well as maintaining key ecosystem functions (FAO, 2011).

Ecosystem services or environmental services?

Internationally, the term is best known by payment for environmental services. However, in last few years the term used is ecosystem services instead of environmental services, in order to specify that they are the results of the ecosystem processes and to distinguish them from the conception of goods and from the environmental services ecosystem components considered as divisible units (PERU, 2010).

Putting a “price” on natural assets

One of the main challenges to the scientific community involved in biology conservation is to demonstrate that the loss and damage of habitats, ecological interactions and species generates a prejudice (present and future) that far exceeds the profits from the exploitation of natural resources and agricultural production.

In the past 50 years, the human activity has been the main cause of environmental degradation and it has reached about 60% of the Earth’s ecosystem services (MEA, 2005). The study The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), accomplished by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), pointed out the economic value of plants, animals, forests and ecosystems. The study evaluated the costs of biodiversity loss between R $ 3.6 and R $ 8.2 trillion per year (TEEB, 2010). Quantifying the value of ecosystem services is of great importance for developing arguments and programs for protecting them.

Putting a “price” on natural assets—recognizing the environmental, economic, and social values of forest ecosystem services—is one way to promote conservation and more responsible decisionmaking.

Due to this price, there is the initiative to pay for the maintenance of ecosystem services – payment for ecosystem service (PES). PES are incentives offered to farmers or landowners in exchange for managing their land to provide some sort of ecological service. This is a tool to ensure sustainable use of rural properties and it even includes assisting in the maintenance of people in rural areas.

Ecosystems services in environmental education

Human impacts on the environment are intensifying, raising vexing questions of how best to allocate the limited resources available for biodiversity conservation. Which creatures and places most deserve attention? Which should we ignore, potentially accepting their extinctions? (BALVANERA et al., 2001). A broader approach, such as ecosystem services, is to go beyond these issues pointing to our dependence on nature.

Environmental education is often understood as separate collection, planting seedlings in events or activities with reusing plastic bottles or paper. This type of action is important, but it must go beyond: a critical discussion is essential to induce behavioral changes.

To discuss ecosystem services with students is a way to use arguments that highlight our dependence on nature, financial values? Resulting ecosystem services, the damage from the loss of these and the relationship between ecosystem functionality and quality of life.

This is a response to the growing individuality in modern societies. Arguments related to the maintenance of life, poverty reduction and respect for the environment weaken every day. The approach of the environmental services is shown as an alternative to be a commitment for people with the environmental conservation.

To understand ecosystem services one has to have an understanding of various ecological processes and/ or biogeochemical cycles. To speak about these in the classroom makes it possible to treat many topics in context, contributing to the student learning. The ecosystem services approach in educational actions and initiatives makes PES programs more efficient due the greater integration of the actors involved, ensuring the effectiveness of their actions. Regardless, it is also an appreciation of native vegetation or urban forests, responsible for various ecosystem services, such as the maintenance of air wetter and milder and stable temperatures.


Presented in part as a conference paper to “7th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC)”, Marrakech, Morocco, from 9 to 14 June of 2013.


BALVANERA, P., DAILY, G. C., EHRILCH, P. R., RICKETTS, T. R., BAILEY, S., KARK, KREMEN, C., PEREIRA, H. (march de 2001). Conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services (Editorial). Science, vol. 291, pp. 2047.

DAILY, G. C. (1997). Nature’s services: Societal Dependence on Natural Ecosystems. Washington: Island Press.

FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). (2011). Biodiversity for a world wihout hunger. Accessed November 2011, available on: http://www.fao.org/biodiversity/en/

KLEIN, A., VAISSIÈRE, B. E., CANE, J. H., STEFFAN-DEWENTER, I., CUNNINGHAM, S. A., KREMEN, C., & TSCHARNTKE, T. (2007). Importance of pollinators in changing landscapes for world crops. Proc. R. Soc. B, vol. 274, pp. 303-313.

MEA (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment). (2005). Ecosystems and human well-being: synthesis.Washington: Island Press.

PERU. MINAM (Ministerio del Ambiente). (2010). Compensación por servicios ecosistémicos: Lecciones aprendidas de una experiencia demonstrativa. Las microcuencas Mishiquiyacu, Rumiacu y Almendra de San Martín, Peru.Lima.

TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity). (2010). TEEB for local and regional policy makers. (H. WITTMER, & H. GUNDIMEDA, Eds.) Malta: Progress Press.

VIANA, B. F., ALMEIDA, A. M., PIOVESAN, J. C., & SILVA, F. O. (2006). Manual do Produtor: o maracujá-amarelo e seus polinizadores na região do Vale do Médio São Francisco.Salvador-Ba.


This article was published on September 15th: International Day of Democracy, in Global Education Magazine.

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