Ecosystems, Ecosystem Services, and Biodiversity

By: , and 
Edited by: David ReidmillerC. W. AveryD. R. EasterlingK. E. KunkelK. L. M. LewisT. K. Maycock, and B. C. Stewart



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. Climate change poses many threats and potential disruptions to ecosystems and biodiversity, as well as to the ecosystem services on which people depend.

Building on the findings of the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3), 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.

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Title Ecosystems, Ecosystem Services, and Biodiversity
DOI 10.7930/NCA4.2018.CH7
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher U.S. Global Change Research Program
Contributing office(s) Office of Science Quality and Integrity
Description 54 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype Other Government Series
Larger Work Title Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II
First page 268
Last page 321
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