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Provisioning services Supporting services

Regulating services Cultural services

Natural ecosystem


Crop production

Fuel wood

Nutrient cycling

Regulation of water balance

Natural ecosystem services Artist: Peter Grundy, United Kingdom

Soil formation

Climate regulation

Pest control


Agriculture, water, and ecosystems: avoiding the costs of going too far

Coordinating lead authors: Malin Falkenmark, C. Max Finlayson, and Line J. Gordon

Contributing authors: Elena M. Bennett, Tabeth Matiza Chiuta, David Coates, Nilanjan Ghosh, M. Gopalakrishnan, Rudolf S. de Groot, Gunnar Jacks, Eloise Kendy, Lekan Oyebande, Michael Moore, Garry D. Peterson, Jorge Mora Portuguez, Kemi Seesink, Rebecca Tharme, and Robert Wasson


Agricultural systems depend fundamentally on ecological processes and on the services provided by many ecosystems. ese ecological processes and services are crucial for supporting and enhancing human well-being. Ecosystems support agriculture, produce fiber and fuel, regulate freshwater, purify wastewater and detoxify wastes, regulate climate, provide pro- tection from storms, mitigate erosion, and offer cultural benefits, including significant aesthetic, educational, and spiritual benefits.

Agricultural management during the last century has caused widescale changes in land cove , watercourses, and aquifers, contributing to ecosystem degradation and undermining the processes that support ecosystems and the provision of a wide range of ecosystem services. Many agroecosystems have been managed as though they were disconnected from the wider landscape, with scant regard for maintaining the ecological components and processes that underpinned their sustainability. Irrigation, drainage, extensive clearing of vegetation, and addition of agrochemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) have often altered the quantity and quality of water in the agricultural landscape. e resultant modifications of water flows and water quality have had major ecological, economic, and social consequences, includ- ing effects on human health [well established]. Among them are the loss of provisioning services such as fisheries, loss of regulating services such as storm protection and nutrient retention, and loss of cultural services such as biodiversity and recreational values. Adverse ecological change, including land degradation through pollution, erosion, and saliniza- tion, and the loss of pollinators and animals that prey on pest species, can have negative

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