Ecosystem Services

Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. Agricultural ecosystems are the world’s largest ecosystem and play a central role in ensuring both human well-being and ecosystem health. Ecosystem services are also vitally important for sustainable livelihoods and poverty alleviation in developing countries. Ecosystem services such as soil fertility, pest regulation and pollination directly affect agricultural productivity. Decisions we make regarding how to manage crops and agricultural landscapes have environmental implications, including for biodiversity and a wide range of ecosystem services, such as water quality, pollination, nutrient cycling, soil retention, and carbon sequestration. As such, agro-ecosystem management should aim not only to increase the productivity of existing agricultural land, but also to maintain ecosystem functions and biodiversity underpinning the sustainable supply of goods and services.

The concept of ecosystem services has increasingly been used in natural resources and environmental decision-making as well as in sustainable agricultural intensification and poverty reduction. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a major step toward better integrating ecosystem services into sustainable development efforts. Socioeconomic research provides the much needed insight into ways to integrate the values of ecosystem services and externalities of production systems into decision making of both farmers and policy makers to induce behavioral change. To inform policies and induce behavioral change at both the macro- and micro-level, IFPRI engages in ecosystem services research in the following main areas.