Cultural Services: The Basics
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment classified ecosystem services into four major categories: provisioning services, regulatory services, cultural services, and supporting services. Cultural services are defined as “. . .the nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation, and aesthetic experiences”. Heterogeneous ecosystems influence the diversity of cultures, spiritual and religious values, knowledge systems (traditional and formal), educational values, inspiration, aesthetic values, social relations, sense of place, cultural heritage values, and recreation and ecotourism. There is also a degree of feedback from cultural uses into ecosystem structure and function than can, in turn influence the services provided by ecosystems. Spiritual and other cultural values are as important as other services, but have been significantly compromised by ecosystem degradation, recreation and ecotourism placing pressures on ecosystems but also serving as potentially influential levers for their conservation. It is important to balance management for and uses of cultural services provisioning, regulatory and supporting services to ensure overall resilience and contributions to human wellbeing, including their contribution to poverty alleviation.