Nature provides humans with many things of value—not only the water we drink and the air we breathe, but also crop pollination accomplished by bees, flood protection afforded by wetlands, and the sense of peace we might find standing in a quiet forest. People also depend on nature for environmental commodities such as crops, fish, and fiber, as well as places to live, work, and play.
The term ecosystem services is shorthand for all of these aspects of nature that contribute to human health, wealth, and well-being—and these vital contributions of nature and global biodiversity are deteriorating worldwide. The Ecosystem Services Program at Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability focuses on ensuring that the environment can sustain future generations by helping public and private decision makers value the benefits natural ecosystems provide.
Drawing on the unmatched, diverse expertise of Duke scholars and others outside the university, the program is working to integrate both the direct and indirect value of ecosystem services into strategies and policies. Through the National Ecosystem Services Partnership, researchers are working with federal agencies to develop an approach to account for ecosystem services in planning and management processes.
Duke University is a partner in the Bridge Collaborative, which is inspiring a community of leaders and practitioners from across disciplines, sectors, and perspectives to develop a shared evidence base for solutions that bridge development and environmental sustainability.
In addition to new research on how accounting for ecosystem services can improve both urban planning and water utility management, the program has a body of work focusing on policy design for environmental markets and has developed significant expertise in greenhouse gas mitigation for agriculture and forestry.