Human impact on freshwater ecosystem services: a global perspective. Academic Article uri icon


  • Human environmental change influences freshwaters as well as the regulating, provisioning, and cultural services that ecosystems provide worldwide. Here, we assess the global human impact on the potential value of six freshwater ecosystem services (ES) and estimate the proportion of each used globally (the mean value across all countries is in parentheses): biodiversity (0.37), disturbance regulation (0.24), commodities (0.39), greenhouse gases (0.09), water availability (0.10), and water quality (0.33). We also created a composite index of the impact. Using different valuation schemes, we found that humans have used potential global freshwater ES scaled by a relative value of roughly 4-20%, with a median of 16%. All countries use a considerable amount of the potential ES value, invalidating the idea that wealthier countries have less impact on their ES once they have developed. The data suggest that humans have diminished the potential ES provided by freshwaters across the globe and that factors associated with high population growth rates are related to the overall degradation.

published proceedings

  • Environ Sci Technol

altmetric score

  • 7

author list (cited authors)

  • Dodds, W. K., Perkin, J. S., & Gerken, J. E.

citation count

  • 146

complete list of authors

  • Dodds, Walter K||Perkin, Joshuah S||Gerken, Joseph E

publication date

  • August 2013