Ecosystems and their biodiversity have vital functions for humans and their environment. Biological diversity encompasses the variety of life at all levels of organization, from genetic diversity within a species to diversity within entire regions or ecosystems. Biodiversity is increasingly recognized as critical to human life, but many species are in danger of extinction more than ever by urbanization, global deforestation, climate change and overexploitation of the world’s fisheries and marine ecosystems, industrial agricultural expansion and other human activities.
Ecosystem services, or the resources nature provides us free of charge such as drinking water, crop pollination, nutrient cycling and climate regulation, all rely on biodiversity. For instance, the diversity of insect and avian pollinators is crucial to global agricultural productivity, ensuring that plants produce harvestable crops for human use. IVM´s research contributes to valuing these ecosystem services, for example through economic valuation by humans of their value for household economics, such as the sustainable use of fuelwood from forests. Another example is assessing the capacity of ecosystems with risk models, to simulate whether ecosystems can reduce risks form natural hazards. Think of e.g. wetlands that can absorb and store rain water to be used in dry periods, or of mangrove forests in coastal areas that can protect people and cities against coastal storm surges.