Sustainable Development and Ecosystem Services Essay

Submitted By selinke
Words: 3883
Pages: 16

ENVR545: Sustainable Development from Theory to Practice | Assessing and Advancing Sustainable Development through Ecosystem Services at the Watershed Level. | Susan Linkletter | | | 6/7/2013 |



Sustainable Development is a concept that was first introduced by the Brundtland Commission in 1987, at that time it was defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of the future to meet their own needs” (Brundtland, 1987). More than two decades have passed since the concept of sustainable development was first introduced and according to the United Nations in their fourth Global Environmental Outlook, released in 2010, environmental degradation has continued to the point that it now threatens our very existence on this planet [ (Bowman, et al., 2010) ] (Dale, 2001). At the same time our population has grown and our dependence upon ecosystem services has increased substantially. We are at the point where environmental degradation now threatens to hinder the progress of sustainable development [ (IFAD, na) ] [ (Edo, 2011) ]. While progress in moving towards sustainable development has been made through meetings, agreements and changes in environmental governance, the real applied changes required for sustainable development globally have been slow to materialize (Bowman, et al., 2010) . Are there tools that could be used to promote sustainable development at the local and individual level that could also be used to protect ecosystem services for future generations?


Assessing sustainable development is difficult because of the complex nature of economic, environmental and social systems contained within it and because a central theme of sustainable development is care for future as well as present generations and care for ecosystems as well as for people [ (Hardi & Zdan, 1997) ].
Ecosystem services refer to the goods and services provided by our planets natural ecosystems that benefit, sustain and support the well-being of people (CSIRO, 2008). There is a long list of ecosystem services provided by nature that humans depend upon such as clean water and air, the supply of food, climate regulation, even recreation and spiritual benefits can be included in the list. These services come from healthy ecosystems made up of a variety of both undisturbed natural areas to highly modified agricultural landscapes and they are often referred to as ‘natural capital’ [ (Hardi & Zdan, 1997) ].

Ecosystem services are very important because if they are depleted the ability or capacity of the environment to provide the essential services that humans and wildlife depend upon is also diminished. They ensure our current and future well-being; this value was recognized by the United Nations in 2000, when Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, called for an assessment of the ‘health’ of ecosystems. The result was a report, published in 2005, called the ‘Millennium Ecosystem Assessment’ (MA). The MA appraised ecosystems and ecosystem services globally, documenting their current condition, trends, and options and challenges for restoring or maintaining them. One of the reports final conclusions was that ‘Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted’ (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment Board, 2005). This paper explores the concept of sustainable development and how it can be applied locally through delivery by watershed groups.

Research Context

For anything to be ‘sustainable’, by definition it must be sustained through time and into the future. When it comes to sustainable development, what must be sustained is the potential for generations to meet their needs through development in the future. In order to do that, the planetary ecosystem services that we have today must be preserved for future