European Environment Agency (EEA)

EEA contribution to the “Beyond the GDP” conference

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Courtesy of Courtesy of European Environment Agency (EEA)

An ecosystem is a dynamic complex of plant, animal, and micro-organism communities and the non-living environment interacting as a functional unit. There are a wide range of ecosystems in Europe and globally – from those relatively undisturbed, such as natural forests, to landscapes with mixed patterns of human use, to ecosystems intensively managed and modified by humans, such as agricultural land an urban areas.

Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. These include provisioning services such as food, water, timber, and fiber; regulating services that affect climate, floods, soil, disease, wastes, and water quality; cultural services that provide recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual benefits.

Human well-being is assumed to have multiple constituents, including the basic material for a good life, such as secure and adequate livelihoods, enough food at all times, shelter, clothing, and access to goods: health, including feeling well and having a healthy physical environment, such as clean air and access to clean water: good social relations, including social cohesion, mutual respect, and the ability of help others and provide for children; security, including secure access to natural and other resources, personal safety, and security from natural and human-made disasters; and freedom of choice and action, including the opportunity to achieve what an individual values doing and being.

People are integral parts of ecosystems and a dynamic interaction exists between them and other parts of ecosystems, with the changing human condition driving, both directly and indirectly, changes in ecosystems and thereby causing changes in human well-being. At the same time, social, economic, and cultural factors unrelated to ecosystems alter the human conditions, and many natural forces influence ecosystems.

The actions that people take influence ecosystems not just from concern about human well-being but also from considerations of the intrinsic value of species and ecosystems.

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