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Required reading from the Sustainability Science book

Chapter 2.3 Natural capital, services and human wellbeing

Chapter 2.3 Natural capital, services and human wellbeing
In this chapter, we discuss the variety and inter-relationships of services derived from natural capital, and examine the structure, processes, and dynamics that control the provision of these services. We consider the various forms of interactions between human use and human management of natural capital. These discussions draw on two related strands of scientific research. The first strand, related to our understanding of the planetary life support system and its dynamics, has progressed rapidly through research carried out under the auspices of four international global change programs – the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, the International Human Dimensions of Global Change Programme, DIVERSITAS, and the World Climate Research Program – as well as assessments done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. This body of research has illuminated the nature of the global system and its component parts, and identified ways in which global systems provide for and respond to human activities (e.g., Steffen et al. 2005). The second strand, focused on an understanding of dynamics of ecosystems and the benefits they provide for humans, has likewise been aided by these global programs, but emerged more directly from biophysical research on the structure and function of ecosystems, including more recent research on ecosystem processes in the context of coupled human-environment systems.