TED Conversations

Sydni Rucks


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What are ecosystem services that you rely on everyday? Are you willing to pay for them?

Ecosystem services are what we gain from an ecosystem, be it medicines, clean water, or any cultural and spiritual benefits we get from nature. Ecosystem services are not specific to the science realm and they are open to interpretation based on our individual views. What ecosystem services do you value?

Although ecosystem services have monetary value, determining pricing has proven challenging. For example, every time you shop for produce, you can choose to support the ecosystem services offered by organic farming. There has been a boom in the organic foods market due to the ever-growing assumption that organic farming methods contribute to ecosystem services including increased pollination (bee populations are higher due to larger production of flowers on organic farms), increased biodiversity, natural pest control, and natural soil fertility. Are these methods worth the extra cost at the grocery store? What factors do you consider when making your choice between conventionally and organically grown produce? What are ways to promote organic farming, or more generally the valuation of ecosystem services, so that more people will be inspired to pay for the benefits?


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  • May 1 2012: One example of an ecosystem service that I, and everyone else, use everyday is nitrogen fixation. This is the process by which atmospheric nitrogen is turned into ammonia by bacteria. This service is essential for providing the biologically available nitrogen required for amino acid synthesis. Although we do not have to pay for this service it is a service that would be worth paying for. Thankfully, these bacteria are thriving and we will probably never have to pay for this service.
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      May 1 2012: Mat, I'm glad that you brought up microbes and how they play an invisible, yet significant role in our day to day lives. To take your example of nitrogen fixation as a service a bit further, microbes also thrive in our bodies as their ecosystem. Microbes seem to be so tiny and easily forgotten because most of us take them for granted and are unaware of what it is they do despite their presence in everything. These services, aiding in digestion, keeping harmful microbes off our skin, and nitrogen fixation, among other things are great ecosystem services. You mentioned that they are worth paying for, how would you place a value on these services they provide? And what would you be willing to pay?

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