Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Citizen science and global biodiversity
Citizen science and global biodiversity

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

1 Ecosystems

Ecosystems provide a number of services to the human population, and the health of these ecosystems is underpinned by their biodiversity. Loss of biodiversity damages ecosystems and also damages ecosystem services and the benefits that we humans derive from them.

According to a United Nations report, it is possible to divide ecosystem services to the human populations into four categories:

  • provisioning
  • regulating
  • supporting
  • cultural

Activity 1 Ecosystem services

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes

Make a short list of ecosystem services that map onto the four categories listed above. If you are unsure what each category means, think back to the diagram of links in the woodland ecosystem which you produced in Week 2.


You may have some different examples but here are some well-known ones.

  • Provisioning: these are the products obtained from ecosystems, such as food, the supply of water and raw materials. You might also have mentioned genetic resources.
  • Regulating: there are benefits from processes that balance climatic variables or break down waste materials.
  • Supporting: these are services that underpin others, such as pollination and nutrient cycling, which support food production.
  • Cultural: there are lots of examples of cultural services, such as leisure activities, ecotourism and education.

Having considered the range of ecosystem services for the human population, you should begin to understand why recording biodiversity is more than a natural-history undertaking: it has a global significance for all humans. Such global significance demands global studies of biodiversity, and the sheer scale of the studies needed is possible only with massive groups of competent observers and recorders. This is the rationale behind the implementation of citizen science initiatives.

The case studies that follow illustrate the diversity and global nature of citizen science projects.