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Introduction to watershed ecosystem services: Chapter 1

January 1, 2016

Humans derive a great number of goods and services from terrestrial ecosystems (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2003, 2005). Some, like timber, fruits, bush meat, and other forest based food stuffs, are evident but others are not so obvious. Increasingly policy makers have realized the importance of forests and other ecosystems in sequestering carbon, as clearing of once vibrant vegetation or draining of swamps releases carbon dioxide (U.S. DOE, 2012) and where planting trees – particularly in the tropics - takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere (Bala et al., 2007). Scientists and conservationists have long called our attention to the value of Neotropical landscapes for biodiversity conservation as forests and other ecosystems harbor vast numbers of species. In recent decades conservationists and policy makers have also highlighted the potential of forests and other ecosystems to regulate stream flows (Ibáñez et al., 2002, Laurance, 2007 but also see Calder et al., 2007) and play a role in assuring clean water (Uriarte et al., 2011). All of these goods and services are part of what is collectively referred to as ecosystem services or goods and services that are provided to humanity through the unimpeded natural function of the ecosystem.

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