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Humans and ecosystems

Review your understanding of humans and ecosystems in this free article aligned to NGSS standards.

Key points:

  • Humans get many benefits from Earth’s ecosystems. These benefits are called ecosystem services.
  • There are four types of ecosystem services:
    • Provisioning ecosystem services are the resources that people extract from ecosystems. These include foods and drinking water.
    • Regulating ecosystem services are all the processes that keep ecosystems healthy. These include fungi decomposing waste and tree roots preventing erosion.
    • Supporting ecosystem services are the foundational processes that underlie all life on Earth. These include photosynthesis and the water cycle.
    • Cultural ecosystem services are the ways that ecosystems benefit people’s lives and traditions. For example, many people have a religious or cultural connection to an ecosystem. Ecosystems also provide inspiration, fun, and a sense of well-being.
  • A loss of biodiversity can make ecosystems less healthy. This can make it harder for people to get the resources and ecosystem services they need.
A woman climbing the side of a mountain.
Ecosystems can be a place for fun activities, such as mountain climbing. Image credit: “Mountain Climber" by mike.in.ny, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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