Ecosystem services have been defined into four categories;
regulating, provisioning, supporting, and cultural (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment).
The formal definition of each category is listed below, followed by examples of rangeland ecosystem services for each.
Regulating, such as the control of climate & disease;
- Carbon sequestration filtering carbon dioxide and other pollutants out of the air, thus increasing the carbon stored in the soil profile.Photo by Sheila Barry.
- Water as it relates to filtration, water quality and quantity, water retention and aquifer recharge. The importance of water quantity and quality cannot be overestimated. According to California Rangeland Trust “Most of California’s vital water resources originate on or flow through rangelands.” (Fact Sheet No. 1: California Rangeland Water Quality Management Program)
- Fire fuel reduction when lands are properly grazed, reducing fire fuel by vegetation removal.
- Habitat for pollinating insects, natural land cover, and pest regulation all of which occur naturally on healthy rangelands.
Photo: Cattle grazing to control fire fuels and improve habitat for the Callippe Silverspot Butterfly, above Callippe Preserve Golf Club, Pleasanton, CA.
- Forage production which allows for the raising of livestock. Managed properly, the grasses grown on rangelands can reduce the costs of food supplements for livestock thereby reducing the cost to raise the animal and food costs to consumers.
- Plant genetic diversity which benefits the environment with better drought tolerance with biodiversity and native species, diverse vegetation which benefit a variety of species and greater resistance to invasive species.
Photo: Cow grazing above Lake Del Valle, Livermore, CA.
Supporting, such as nutrient cycles & crop pollination;
- Fertile soil which provides the basis for healthy plant growth and sustaining life. Natural ecosystems both create and enrich soil through weathering and decomposition and can also retain soil by preventing erosion.
Photo: Bay Checkerspot Butterflies thrive in areas managed with cattle grazing.
- Open space and view sheds are areas of land, water, or other natural environmental elements, visible to the human eye from a fixed vantage point.
- Recreation such as hiking, horseback riding, swimming, skiing, hunting and so on.
Photo: Cow grazing on Mission Peak, East Bay Regional Park District, above Fremont and the San Francisco Bay.