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From Wikipedia

Ecosystem services

Humankind benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems. Collectively, these benefits are known as ecosystem services and include products like clean drinking water and processes such as the decomposition of wastes. While scientists and environmentalists have discussed ecosystem services for decades, these services were popularized and their definitions formalized by the United Nations 2004 Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), a four-year study involving more than 1,300 scientists worldwide. This grouped ecosystem services into four broad categories: provisioning, such as the production of food and water; regulating, such as the control of climate and disease; supporting, such as nutrient cycles and crop pollination; and cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits.

As human populations grow, so do the resource demands imposed on ecosystems and the impacts of our global footprint. Natural resources are not invulnerable and infinitely available. The environmental impacts of anthropogenic actions, which are processes or materials derived from human activities, are becoming more apparent – air and water quality are increasingly compromised, oceans are being overfished, pests and diseases are extending beyond their historical boundaries, and deforestation is exacerbating flooding downstream. It has been reported that approximately 40-50% of Earth’s ice-free land surface has been heavily transformed or degraded by anthropogenic activities, 66% of marine fisheries are either overexploited or at their limit, atmospheric CO2 has increased more than 30% since the advent of industrialization, and nearly 25% of Earth’s bird species have gone extinct in the last two thousand years. Society is increasingly becoming aware that ecosystem services are not only limited, but also that they are threatened by human activities. The need to better consider long-term ecosystem health and its role in enabling human habitation and economic activity is urgent. To help inform decision-makers, many ecosystem services are being assigned economic values, often based on the cost of replacement with anthropogenic alternatives. The ongoing challenge of prescribing economic value to nature, for example through biodiversity banking, is prompting transdisciplinary shifts in how we recognize and manage the environment, social responsibility, business opportunities, and our future as a species.

A brief history

The simple notion of human dependence on Earth’s ecosystems probably reaches to the start of our species’ existence, when we benefited from the products of nature to nourish our bodies and for shelter from harsh climates. Recognition of how ecosystems could provide more complex services to mankind date back to at least Plato (c. 400 BC) who understood that deforestation could lead to soil erosion and the drying of springs. However, modern ideas of ecosystem services probably began with Marsh in 1864 when he challenged the idea that Earth’s natural resources are not infinite by pointing out changes in soil fertility in the Mediterranean. Unfortunately, his observations and cautions passed largely unnoticed at the time and it was not until the late 1940s that society’s attention was again brought to the matter. During this era, three key authors – Osborn, Vogt, and Leopold – awakened and promoted recognition of human dependence on the environment with the idea of ‘natural capital’. In 1956, Sears drew attention to the critical role of the ecosystem in processing wastes and recycling nutrients. An environmental science textbook called attention to “the most subtle and dangerous threat to man’s existence… the potential destruction, by man’s own activities, of those ecological systems upon which the very existence of the human species depends�. The term ‘environmental services’ was finally introduced in a report of the Study of Critical Environmental Problems, which listed services including insect pollination, fisheries, climate regulation and flood control. In following years, variations of the term were used, but eventually ‘ecosystem services’ became the standard in scientific literature.

Modern expansions of the ecosystem services concept include socio-economic and conservation objectives, which are discussed below. For a more complete history of the concepts and terminology of ecosystem services, see Daily (1997).

Examples

Experts currently recognize four categories of ecosystem services. The following lists represent samples of each:

Provisioning services
• food (including seafood and game), crops, wild foods, and spices
• water
• pharmaceuticals, biochemicals, and industrial products
• energy (hydropower, biomass fuels)
Regulating services
• carbon sequestration and climate regulation
• waste decomposition and detoxification
• purification of water and air
• crop pollination
• pest and disease control
Supporting services
• nutrient dispersal and cycling
• seed di


From Yahoo Answers

Question:How do acidity and alkalinity affect the rate of decomp and which of the two results in a faster rate of decomp? How do pH levels affect the rate of decomp? Thanks.

Answers:This is such a complex issue that organisations such as the FBI conduct research using real human bodies buried in all sorts of different conditions in order to investigate what happens. Extreme acidity or alkalinity will often slow the rate of decomposition by restricting the growth rate of microorganisms but many other factors also have an impact, for example:- - temperature - humidity - exposure to the air - condition of the corpse (damaged by injury, body mass, health when alive, etc) - seasonal variations in weather - nearby flora and fungi

Question:If it did would the process be the same as it is in our atmosphere?

Answers:In outer space, the average temperature is close to 2 K or -270 C approx. This means that the body would be frozen. Additionally, there is no oxygen in space, meaning that aerobic organisms would not be able to assist in the decomposition process.

Question:A discussion I had with my friend once. Say the body was in fresh clean water, a tank or something, and it's uninhabited by and fish or anything, how would it happen, and how slow?

Answers:If oxygen is present, decomposition will occur. If the tank was sealed it might take longer as no other microbes could get in on the process. It would have to be distilled or chlorinated or something for there to be no living organisms in it the water begin with, but I believe there are enough microbes in the human body to begin the process regardless.

Question:What are the stages?

Answers:That depends on so many things, is the coffin air tight? Is there any moisture within the coffin? Any bacteria? Look up some forensic web sites, I think this site may be interesting to you: http://www.deathonline.net/decomposition/index.htm I hope it helps

From Youtube

Decomposition of human body :Decomposition of human body

The Body Farm - Study of Human Decomposition :Video about the Body Farm where the study of human decomposition is carried out on real corpses. Goes well with the Caylee / Casey Anthony case videos as tests were conducted by Body Farm personal. Note that the researcher in the video mentions that you never forget the smell.