Although still in its infancy, the study of ecosystem services has brought out the tangible importance of aquatic systems to humanity. Much work remains, in terms of identifying the services, developing criteria for their measurement, and quantifying them. Nevertheless, it is clear that aquatic ecosystem services and goods provide billions and perhaps trillions of dollars' worth of benefit to societies. Historically, people often viewed Nature not only as a wily adversary, fraught with danger and disease, but also with opportunity. Today, the scale of human impacts on ecosystems is such that it is overwhelming or destroying many at an unprecedented rate, and humans will ultimately pay a price through such effects as decreased productivity and lower quality of life. The identification and quantification of natural capital and ecosystem services is one means of revealing hidden subsidies of Nature to societal functioning and well-being, and thus help humanity avoid the cost of ignoring these services.

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