Natural and naturalized ecosystems harbour a diverse flora and fauna, and provide
important ecosystem services like water filtration, carbon sequestration, or cultural services
for human well-being.
Photo by Andrea Čerevková.

By Werner Ulrich, Péter Batáry, Julia Baudry, Léa Beaumelle, Roman Bucher, Andrea Čerevková, Enrique de la Riva, María Felipe-Lucia, Róbert Gallé, Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot, Ewa Rembiałkowska, Adrien Rusch, Dara Stanley, and Klaus Birkhofer.

Read the full article here.

Most people have already heard that we are facing an era of massive species extinction, that we run out of insect pollinators for our fruit plantations and backyard gardens, and that springs are silent now. Because humans evolved in heterogeneous and natural landscapes it is also taken for granted that a diverse nature is essential for our economic and emotional well-being, and for human health in general. But how to prove this?

Although positive direct and indirect influences of biodiversity on human well-being are most likely, unequivocal evidence is still scarce and restricted to cases like pollination, including crop and honey production. In our contribution, we provide a roadmap for ecologists, social scientists, policy makers, and an interested general audience towards a critical assessment of diversity – human well-being relationships.

We present two detailed graphical models that show step by step the pathway from environmental conditions through various aspects of diversity, ecosystem functioning and services (the goods of ecosystems delivered to us) towards physical, economic and cultural well-being. We review current approaches for the study of diversity – well-being relationships, propose five promising methodological approaches, and identify conceptional and methodological shortcomings and principle obstacles that hinder appropriate nature conservation policies. In this respect, we highlight the need to look at primeval ecosystems, and not only at semi-natural agricultural landscapes and recreation areas.

A full appreciation of the values of natural diversity requires a holistic approach that includes the trade-offs in ecosystem functioning (the good and bad ecosystems deliver to us) as well as the contrasting perceptions of well-being that strongly depend on cultural and economic background. Finally, we call for appropriate long-term socio-ecological research platforms to gather relevant data about ecosystem functioning and well-being across space and time.