|Composites Design and Manufacture (Plymouth University teaching support materials)
The value of Eco-System Services
In 1968, Paul and Anne Ehrlich warned of major societal upheavals and mass starvation unless there was immediate action to limit human population. Meadows et al then published a report for the Club of Rome's project on the predicament of mankind, The Limits to Growth . While the respective crises have been delayed, not avoided, the authors of the original predictions have updated their positions [3, 4].
Costanza et al  estimated the value of the non-marketed contribution of the world’s ecosystem services to human welfare at US$16-54 trillion per year (with a mean of US$33 trillion) in $1994. This figure was significantly larger than the corresponding global GNP at $18 trillion per year and was considered to be an underestimate. Toman  suggested that "economic assessment of ecosystem benefits and opportunity costs [are] one important element of the information set that must go into social decision making, even though a simple cost-benefit test cannot determine what actions are appropriate". He states that "a default value of zero for a difficult-to-measure ecological value, as is used (explicitly or implicitly) in a number of cost-benefit analyses, is no more defensible scientifically than a default value of infinity" which only reinforces the need to appreciate the context of the analysis. He then concludes that the fundamental problem with the analysis in  is "that there is little that can be usefully done with a serious underestimate of infinity"!
Imhoff and Bounoua  report that the human species constitutes around 0.5% of the total biomass of organisms that require organic compounds to get carbon for growth and development, yet globally they consume 20% of the net primary production from the land, i.e. the supply of food energy. Kern  has summarised the debate about food, feed, fibre, fuel and industrial products.
The United States Department of Agriculture defines soil quality/soil health as "the continued capacity of soil to function as a vital living ecosystem that sustains plants, animals, and humans. This definition speaks to the importance of managing soils so they are sustainable for future generations. To do this, we need to remember that soil contains living organisms that when provided the basic necessities of life - food, shelter, and water - perform functions required to produce food and fiber" . Montgomery  argues that "cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough to be ignored in a single lifetime but fast enough over centuries to limit the lifespan of civilizations", and "sees in the recent rise of organic and no-till farming the hope for a new agricultural revolution that might help us avoid the fate of previous civilizations". Tolputt  considers the remedy to be Five pillars for good soil: