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Beyond the Air We Breathe: Supporting Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem Services

Our environment provides numerous benefits that are vital to our health and economic livelihood. These environmental benefits are called ecosystem services. Ecosystem services are classified into four major categories: regulating, provisional, cultural, and supporting services. It is nearly impossible to list all their benefits and impacts; nonetheless, their role is required. Therefore any disruption to ecosystem services has resonating impacts.

Supporting Ecosystem Services

Throughout the Beyond the Air We Breathe series we explored regulating, provisional, and cultural services. For the final article in the series, we will discuss supporting services. Supporting services underpin all other ecosystem services. Without a healthy ecosystem that supports habitats and genetic diversity, undoubtedly, the provisional, cultural, and regulating ecosystem services cannot be supported.

Natural Communities

According to the Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI), there are 81 unique natural communities throughout the state. Each natural community provides a unique, biologically diverse composition of animals, plants, fungi, and other microorganisms. Some of the common natural communities present in central Florida include swamps, mesic Flatwoods, sandhills, and bogs.

All of Florida’s natural communities provide critical ecosystem services. Consequently, without proper management, the introduction of invasive species, or habitat loss, we begin to lose many of our environmental benefits.

Florida’s natural environment provides an important foundation for supporting all ecosystem services.

Genetic Diversity

The unique, biologically diverse natural communities that support ecosystem services require genetic diversity. Genetic diversity refers to the genetic variability of specific species. The genetic diversity of plants and animals within our natural communities helps species survive major climatic or environmental changes. As a result of genetic diversity loss, natural communities losses their natural resilience which could lead to the extinction of different species.

Disrupting Supporting Ecosystem Services

Maintaining a healthy ecosystem that supports genetic diversity is incredibly important for supporting services. Therefore, disrupting supporting services creates a ripple effect, negatively affecting other ecosystem services. Without the supporting services, the pollination, carbon sequestration, and air quality benefits from regulating ecosystem services are diminished. Through the loss of the supporting services, there is a decrease in agriculture production, raw material production, and freshwater resources from provisioning resources. Without the supporting services, cultural benefits associated with healthy natural communities are greatly impacted.

Ecosystem services go beyond the air breathe. The benefits received from our environment support nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Making sure we continually benefit from our provisional, cultural, regulating, and supporting ecosystem services requires us to maintain a healthy environment.

Our Role

Everybody plays a role in maintaining a healthy environment. Therefore, a strategy is for homeowners to adopt Florida-Friendly Landscaping program principles in their landscapes by minimizing water use, managing yard pests responsibly, fertilizing appropriately, and planting for wildlife. Other strategies include reducing waste, conserving water within your home, or turning off lights when leaving a home. All these strategies have a positive impact in helping maintain healthy natural environments and our ecosystem services.

As you go throughout your week, feel free to awaken your inner Took and explore the different parks, green spaces, and natural areas. Have you begun to look at your environment any differently? Lastly, are you noticing any ecosystems in your community? If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Alachua County’s Master Gardener Volunteer Help Desk at (352)955-2402 or mag@alachuacounty.us.  As always, I’m rooting for you.

Other Series Articles

Want to read more? Below are the other articles in the five-part series about Ecosystem Services.

Beyond the Air We Breathe: The Limitless Benefits of Our Environment

Beyond the Air We Breathe: Regulating Ecosystem Services

Beyond the Air We Breathe: Provisioning Ecosystem Services

Beyond the Air We Breathe: Cultural Ecosystem Services

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