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CSREES Announces Recommendations for Ecosystem Services Research, Education and Extension Portfolio

Jennifer Martin, CSREES Staff, (202) 720-8188

December 5, 2007

The CSREES Ecosystem Services Working Group (ESWG) issued a discussion paper, "Consequences of Ecosystem Change for Human Well-being," on recommendations for a research, education and extension portfolio structure linking competitive, formula and special grants that related to ecosystem services.

An ecosystem is a dynamic complex of plant, animal, microorganism, and the nonliving environment interacting as a functional unit. Ecosystem services are the benefits that people obtain from nature. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, sponsored by the United Nations to assess the conditions and trends of the global ecosystems, divides ecosystem services into four categories and linked ecosystem services to human well-being:

  • Provisioning Services such as food, water, timber, fuel and fiber, and genetic resources
  • Regulating Services, which affect climate, floods, drought, disease, waste, land degradation and maintenance of air and water quality
  • Cultural Services that provide recreational, aesthetic and spiritual benefits
  • Supporting Services, such as soil formation, photosynthesis, biodiversity and nutrient cycling

The use of agricultural lands is changing in both the intensity and the diversity of products being provided for human consumption. The grand challenge for agriculture is how to reconcile agricultural productivity with environmental and social integrity.

Implementing an ecosystem services portfolio approach within CSREES could provide for integration of programs and topics that have ecosystem services relevance. The portfolio would allow for collaborative management of ecosystem services topics at multiple levels including programs on specific services to complex multiple services systems. The multi-service approach would be novel to CSREES for research, extension, and educational activities.

ESWG considered four program areas in which CSREES programs should be evaluated and provide for funding activities: human and environmental health, environmental security, policy impacts on providing ecosystem services, and valuing ecosystem services. Future CSREES activities beyond the portfolio management should include continuation of the ecosystem services seminar series, maintenance of the ecosystem services Web site, maintenance of links with other agencies involved in ecosystem services activities, and sponsoring an inter-agency workshop on ecosystem services to determine potential for future collaboration.

The CSREES ESWG was comprised of the following CSREES staff members: Henry Bahn, Catalino Blanche, Michael Bowers, Richard Hegg, Janie Hipp, Diana Jerkins, Bruce Mertz, Eric Norland, Mary Ann Rozum, Joanne Throwe, Bruce Williams. The entire ESWG discussion paper and information on other activities can be viewed online.