What is so bad about an ecosystem that is no longer in the desirable state? What makes it undesirable? It is probably not as attractive to the human eye, for one. Who would choose a field of thistles over a field of bluestem, coneflower, blazingstar and indigo? Attractiveness in the ecological sense may also be altered; the ecosystem in the undesirable state may not support the same wildlife that it once did. A rare or endangered species that was adapted to this specific type of ecosystem may now be locally extinct. With these aesthetic and ecological departures from the ecosystem of recent history there may be a sense of lost legacy: this was the last remnant of a once-great type of ecosystem in this particular area. Aesthetic appeal and nostalgia for a particular manifestation of nature are real but subjective reasons for eschewing and lamenting ecological change. But there are also concrete, objective reasons. For instance, there may be economic ramifications to ecosystem changes that limit or eliminate hunting, fishing, or other opportunities for recreation. Perhaps the ecosystem in its new state no longer supports a particular commodity, such as timber, fish, or shellfish. There may also be quantifiable consequences of ecosystem change for a broader human audience. Maybe the change has affected some ecosystem-level functions, and maybe some of these functions could be considered ecosystem services on which humans on a local, regional, or global scale depend.
KeywordsEcosystem Service Invasive Species Native Species Zebra Mussel Water Hyacinth
- Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Washington: Island Press.Google Scholar