collapse of ecosystem services

Definition

Humankind benefits in a multitude of ways from ecosystems, and these benefits are collectively known as ecosystem services. A popular analogy of the collapse of ecosystem services is that of rivets in an airplane wing to compare the exponential effect the loss of each species will have on the function of an ecosystem; this is sometimes referred to as rivet popping. If only one species disappears, the loss of the ecosystem's efficiency as a whole is relatively small; however if several species are lost, the system essentially collapses as an airplane wing would, were it to lose too many rivets. The hypothesis assumes that species are relatively specialized in their roles and that their ability to compensate for one another is less than in the redundancy hypothesis. As a result, the loss of any species is critical to the performance of the ecosystem. The key difference is the rate at which the loss of species affects total ecosystem function.

Broader terms

ecosystem services