Species can be valued in two ways. The first perspective is that they can be valued for the ecosystem services that they provide. You may recall that ecosystem services consist of:
|Ecosystem Service||What It Provides|
|Provisioning Services||Food, fiber, fuels, fresh water, and medicine|
|Regulating Services||Climate regulation, water purification, and pollination|
|Cultural Services||Religious or spiritual value, recreation, educational use, and aesthetic value|
|Supporting Services||Nutrient cycling, formation of soil, and production of energy from sunlight|
Species who can perform one or more of these services — especially if no other species can — are seen as valuable and are preserved.
EXAMPLECertain keystone species, such as the mountain lion, have had significant efforts devoted to its protection. Mountain lions manage multiple species' population numbers and keep ecosystems in balance so that many ecosystem services can be provided. Within this perspective, therefore, the mountain lion is valuable and must be protected.
The second perspective is intrinsic value, meaning that the environment is seen as valuable, not as a means to an end, but as an end unto itself. It is valuable because it exists.
EXAMPLESomeone with this perspective might find value in wilderness areas that have no human use because they are intrinsically valuable.
This viewpoint means that the environment is seen as worth protecting, regardless of its value for human use, and it also means that all species are valued equally and should be protected as such.
In addition to a species' individual value, their existence contributes to overall biodiversity, which is an important piece of what keeps ecosystems healthy and balanced, and inevitably provides ecosystem services for humans. Biodiversity can also be seen as valuable from an intrinsic standpoint.
If the wolf species were to decrease or disappear, an important system of population management would vanish. The result would set off a chain reaction of effects that would threaten or make other species go extinct. Over time, as biodiversity declined, the balance and health of the ecosystem would decline along with it, providing ecosystem services less and less for human use. The ecosystem as a whole might fail or take many years to recover.
Source: Adapted from Sophia instructor Jensen Morgan, WOLF CC HTTP://BIT.LY/1LJPZUU