Policy implications of ecosystem services provided by birds

Christopher J. Whelan, PhD, Daniel G. Wenny , PhD, and Robert J. Marquis, PhD

Synesis: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics, and Policy 2010; 1:T11-20

Ecosystem services are natural processes that benefit humans. Here we first provide a brief primer of ecosystem services provided by birds. We then consider government policy in light of these services. Birds contribute the four types of services recognized by the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment- cultural, provisioning, regulating, and supporting services. Most of the services fall into the regulating and supporting categories. These services include pest control, seed dispersal, pollination, and scavenging animal carcasses. Provisioning services include provisioning of meat, eggs, nests and guano (fertilizer). Cultural services include artistic and religious expression, bird watching, and photography. Maintenance of bird-contributed ecosystem services depends upon maintenance of the bird species performing them, and in some cases, enhancing their ability to provide those services. Policies that promote long-term conservation of bird species and their populations are thus critical, and include those that focus on global climate; timber and food production; energy production; emerging diseases; land management (habitat preservation and restoration); wild bird trade and endangered species; and world trade.

Key words: biofuels, conservation reserve program, habitat preservation, native bird populations.