Federal Coordinating Lead Authors:
Shawn Carter, U.S. Geological Survey
Jay Peterson, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Chapter Leads:
Douglas Lipton, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Madeleine A. Rubenstein, U.S. Geological Survey
Sarah R. Weiskopf, U.S. Geological Survey
Chapter Authors:
Lisa Crozier, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Michael Fogarty, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Sarah Gaichas, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Kimberly J. W. Hyde, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Toni Lyn Morelli, U.S. Geological Survey
Jeffrey Morisette, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Invasive Species Council Secretariat
Hassan Moustahfid, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Roldan Muñoz, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Rajendra Poudel, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Michelle D. Staudinger, U.S. Geological Survey
Charles Stock, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Laura Thompson, U.S. Geological Survey
Robin Waples, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Jake F. Weltzin, U.S. Geological Survey
Review Editor:
Gregg Marland, Appalachian State University
USGCRP Coordinators:
Matthew Dzaugis, Program Coordinator
Allyza Lustig, Program Coordinator

Ecosystems, Ecosystem Services, and Biodiversity

Biodiversity—the variety of life on Earth—provides vital services that support and improve human health and well-being. Ecosystems, which are composed of living things that interact with the physical environment, provide numerous essential benefits to people. These benefits, termed ecosystem services, encompass four primary functions: provisioning materials, such as food and fiber; regulating critical parts of the environment, such as water quality and erosion control; providing cultural services, such as recreational opportunities and aesthetic value; and providing supporting services, such as nutrient cycling.1 Climate change poses many threats and potential disruptions to ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as to the ecosystem services on which people depend.

   

Climate Change, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services

Climate and non-climate stressors interact synergistically on biological diversity, ecosystems, and the services they provide for human well-being. The impact of these stressors can be reduced through the ability of organisms to adapt to changes in their environment, as well as through adaptive management of the resources upon which humans depend. Biodiversity, ecosystems, ecosystem services, and human well-being are interconnected: biodiversity underpins ecosystems, which in turn provide ecosystem services; these services contribute to human well-being. Ecosystem structure and function can also influence the biodiversity in a given area. The use of ecosystem services by humans, and therefore the well-being humans derive from these services, can have feedback effects on ecosystem services, ecosystems, and biodiversity. From Figure 7.1 (Sources: NOAA, USGS, and DOI).

Building on the findings of the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3),2 this chapter provides additional evidence that climate change is significantly impacting ecosystems and biodiversity in the United States. Mounting evidence also demonstrates that climate change is increasingly compromising the ecosystem services that sustain human communities, economies, and well-being. Both human and natural systems respond to change, but their ability to respond and thrive under new conditions is determined by their adaptive capacity, which may be inadequate to keep pace with rapid change. Our understanding of climate change impacts and the responses of biodiversity and ecosystems has improved since NCA3. The expected consequences of climate change will vary by region, species, and ecosystem type. Management responses are evolving as new tools and approaches are developed and implemented; however, they may not be able to overcome the negative impacts of climate change. Although efforts have been made since NCA3 to incorporate climate adaptation strategies into natural resource management, significant work remains to comprehensively implement climate-informed planning. This chapter presents additional evidence for climate change impacts to biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecosystem services, reflecting increased confidence in the findings reported in NCA3. The chapter also illustrates the complex and interrelated nature of climate change impacts to biodiversity, ecosystems, and the services they provide.


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