As humans we not only benefit tremendously from resources and processes provided to us by our natural ecosystems but we also depend on many of them for survival. As a whole these benefits are called ecosystem services which encompass everything from water to the decomposition of waste. There are four kinds of ecosystem services: provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural. They can be provided by either an entire ecosystem or by individual plants and animals. Marine ecosystems provide us with countless services from all four categories.
Provisioning services are the resources that nature provides us with such as food, water, timber, and fiber. The ocean provides fish as a source of food for billions of people, building materials from coral reefs and mangroves, and pharmaceutical compounds from invertebrates and marine algae.
Regulating services include the regulation of climate, natural hazards such as floods, disease, water quality, and wastes. Coastal wetlands regulate water quality by capturing and filtering incoming organic waste and sediment from land.
Nature supports many processess such as nutrient cycles, crop pollination, soil formation and photosynthesis. The ocean plays a big part in the global carbon cycle. Atmospheric carbon is absorbed by ocean water, is fixated by algae, and then is eventually released to the ocean bottom.
Nature is essential to culture as it has influenced and inspired aesthetics, athletics, traditions, and spiritual beliefs. Throughout history, a variety of cultures have thrived on the ocean as a source of inspiration and nourishment. Furthermore, the ocean serves as a playground for many recreational activities such as surfing, swimming, scuba diving, and sailing. Coastal tourism and fishing industries are vital to local economies and ultimately the global economy as a whole. A thriving global economy in turn supports and ensures the perseverance of cultures around the world.