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where do humans belong

Each post tells the story of one species or group of organisms and explains how their existence provides service/services to humanity. For most species/groups, threats to their survival are outlined and notes on what we are doing to restore the service are provided.

Even though one particular species or group is highlighted, please keep in mind that organisms almost always exist in communities, and damage to one section of a community ripples throughout the rest of the community and renders it less stable and less able to sustain life. Educators often use the Jenga analogy to make this more understandable.

Most people know the game of Jenga even though it might have different name in different places. It is played with wooden blocks fashioned into a tower. Players take turns of removing the blocks until the tower collapses.

To make this a bit more realistic in terms of an analogy for ecosystem services, imagine that

- the tower is not built by any of the participants
- that the players do not necessarily have the same number of turns
- once removed, a block cannot be added back to the structure
- that if the tower collapses, everybody loses

The tower may be built such that one block that is key to the stability of the whole structure and that block is called the keystone  species. Remove it and the rest of structure is doomed to collapse.

Or to put it in non-Jenga terms -

Biodiversity—comprising animals, plants and microorganisms, their genetic variation and their organisation into populations that assemble into ecosystems—is fundamental to the provision of ecosystem services. The diversity of organisms is the direct source of many services, such as food and fibre, and underpins others including clean water and air, through the role of organisms in energy and material cycles. Changes in and the loss of biodiversity directly influences the capacity of an ecosystem to produce and supply essential services, and can affect the long term ability of ecological, economic and social systems to adapt and respond to global pressures.
Modified ecosystems can deliver production services, such as food and fibre, although productivity relies on the continuation of the underlying ecosystem services. The extent to which ecosystems are modified to produce services, combined with specific management interventions and the additional use of inputs such as fertilisers, herbicides, insecticides and water, becomes important when considering the maintenance of all ecosystem services in the long term. An ongoing focus on some services (e.g. food) at the expense of others (e.g. soil formation or nutrient cycling) may eventually compromise the functioning, and hence the sustainability, of the ecosystems that provide these services
The role of biodiversity in maintaining essential services in human-modified landscapes is often poorly understood and undervalued.

- Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (2009). Ecosystem Services: Key Concepts and Applications, Occasional Paper No 1, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. pp 4-5

Onwards to the stories themselves!

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