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Types of Ecosystem Services 

Ecosystem services are the direct and indirect products and services that are provided to us from the natural environment. The health of an ecosystem will determine the quality of services provided. There are four main categories of Ecosystem services as identified and described by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment: 

  1. Provisioning services are direct products of ecosystems that we can extract and use. 

  2. Regulating services are the basic services that make life possible for humans. These ecosystem processes are responsible for moderating natural phenomena. 

  3. Cultural services are the way in which the natural environment has influenced and shaped our cultural, intellectual and social development throughout humankind's history and every day in our present lives. They are non-material benefits that play a huge role in our wellbeing and identity from an individual level to a global level. 

  4. Supporting services are perhaps the most fundamental services that are often overlooked. They are the underlying processes that are responsible for sustaining ecosystems and allowing life on earth. Supporting services are needed for all of the other services to exist. 




Drinking water


Natural gases


Natural medication




Air purification 

Water filtration

Waste decomposition

Erosion and flood control

Carbon storage

Climate regulation





Fosters creativity


Entwined with religions and cultures




Nutrient cycling

Soil creation 

Water cycle 

Ecosystem Services in Cities

People living in urban areas with a high proportion of green space and biodiversity are likely to benefit more from ecosystem services than people living in highly urbanised areas with little to no green spaces. Urban green spaces are widely acknowledged to improve the mental and physical wellbeing of city dwellers as they allow people to interact with nature recreationally, educationally, spiritually and aesthetically.


Currently our urban green spaces, and thus ecosystem services, in Johannesburg are not equally distributed throughout the city. Generally, the high income suburbs are greener than the often highly urbanised and populated low income suburbs meaning that wealthier residents typically benefit more from ecosystem services than poorer residents (Chamberlain et al., 2019; 2020).  

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