Natuurlijk Kapitaal Nederland | natuur & economie verbinden

The relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services

Bee pollination (Thinkstock)A high level of biodiversity can increase the effectiveness of the ecosystem services of carbon capture, water treatment, soil fertility, natural pest control and crop fertilization.

Research issue

In nature policy the relationship between nature and the economy is becoming increasingly important. Making more efficient use of our natural resources, e.g. through ecosystem services, forms part of this. There is a debate going on about whether a high level of biodiversity is necessary for the supply of ecosystem services, or whether a basic level would be sufficient.


The study comprised a literature search on the relationship between biodiversity and the effectiveness and reliability of the supply of ecosystem services. The seven services investigated were:

  • carbon capture
  • water treatment
  • soil fertility
  • natural pest control
  • crop fertilization
  • aesthetic appreciation
  • food from nature

Effectiveness in this instance refers to the extent of a service provided by a certain number of species, e.g. the degree of fruiting on fruit tress with a certain number of (wild) bee species. Reliability refers to the degree of consistency and predictability of the supply of a service in time and under varying conditions.


From the literature review it appears that a higher level of biodiversity increases effectiveness in five of the seven ecosystem services considered. The positive relationship applies to the regulating services of carbon capture, water treatment, soil fertility, natural pest control and crop fertilization. The importance of biodiversity depends on a greater presence of essential key species or functional groups, a larger number of active species and a higher degree of diversity in the structure of the vegetation or landscape. For the cultural service of aesthetic appreciation indications were found that a wealth of species increases appreciation of the landscape. The ecosystem service food from nature has hardly been investigated in the European context.

It has hardly been investigated whether greater biodiversity also makes the supply of services more reliable. The researchers therefore gave only a couple of examples. Greater biodiversity thus enhances the reliability of the ecosystem service fertilization under varying weather conditions.

From the literature study it also appeared that the Netherlands’ Nature Network and small-scale network of natural elements are critical to the supply of ecosystem services. Little is known however about the optimum size and configuration for this.

Study conducted by

Alterra Wageningen UR research institute

More information

  • Biodiversity and ecosystem services: does species diversity enhance effectiveness and reliability? A systematic literature review (Alterra report)