This interdisciplinary seminar introduces students to the ecological, economic and policy issues involved in the study of “ecosystem services” — the valuable services provided by functioning ecosystems that improve human well-being. The course will explore the various general categories of ecosystem services in relation to ecosystem functions as well as the challenges and limitations in measuring and valuing ecosystem services. By studying the findings and methodologies of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, we will trace the recent emergence of ecosystem services as a research and policy construct that has affected more traditional areas of inquiry such as biodiversity and natural resources management. Through case studies and other materials we will examine the potential for markets in ecosystem services and the increasing use of ecosystem services in sustainable business practices. Throughout, we will also consider the impact of ecosystem services on social and ethical issues. Finally, we will place an emphasis on implementation of ecosystem services concepts and principles, including through policy, law, regulation and management best practices.
Ira Feldman in course syllabus for Exploring Ecosystem Services, University of Pennsylvania, 2015