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Bird Ecosystem Services

Bird Ecosystem Services

Economic Ornithology for the 21st Century

(p.1) Chapter One Bird Ecosystem Services
Why Birds Matter
Christopher J. WhelanÇağan H. ŞekercioğluDaniel G. Wenny
University of Chicago Press

Ecosystem services are those aspects of the earth that benefit humans. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment of the United Nations identified four classes of ecosystem services: provisioning services such as food, water, timber, and fiber; regulating services that affect climate, floods, disease, wastes, and water quality; cultural services that provide recreational, aesthetic, and spiritual benefits; and supporting services such as soil formation, photosynthesis, and nutrient cycling. Interest in both the positive and negative roles of birds spurred development of Economic Ornithology, which investigated the food, habits, and migrations of birds in relation to both insects and plants. Although the discipline was initially greeted enthusiastically, criticism of methods and skepticism regarding conclusions grew in the early 20th century. Keeping in mind the eventual demise of Economic Ornithology in the early 20th century, efforts to revitalize the field today must be rigorous, repeatable, with a focus on tangible measures of plant yield in managed systems and plant fitness in natural systems. Cost-benefit analysis may permit evaluation of bird contributions to ecosystem service and disservice with respect to alternative mechanisms that are available (e.g., bird predation versus pesticides for pest control). Efforts that permit scaling up from experimental plots to entire ecosystems are critical.

Keywords:   avian ecosystem function, economic ornithology, ecosystem services, cultural services, provisioning services, regulating services, supporting services

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