Ecosystem Service Providers

An Ecosystem Service Provider (ESP) is a species, a food web, habitat or system that facilitates and supports the provision of Ecosystem Services (ES) (Kremen, 2005). For example, an ESP can be a strip of flowering buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum Moench that supports different natural enemies (see SPU in the main diagram) (Scarratt et al. 2008). In this example, buckwheat does not directly reduce a pest population. Both ESP and SPU work together to provide or enhance the ES of biological control of insect pests in this example. Therefore, a SPU is the unit that directly delivers the ES, while an ESP facilitates and supports the ES. However, an ESP might also be a SPU for a different ES, eg., a defined strip/area of buckwheat is an ESP for biological control using parasitoids but may also be a SPU for soil water retention.  

Examples of ecosystem service providers:

The endemic New Zealand plant Anaphalioides bellidioides Glenny (Compositae) in a vineyard enhancing biological control by producing nectar and pollen for biocontrol agents while providing other ES such as suppressing weeds and improving soil quality (Shields et al. 2016).

Flowering strips of phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia Benth) (left) and buckwheat (right) in vineyards, providing shelter and food resources to beneficial insects in the Greening Waipara Project. Photo: Jean-Luc Dufour, Accolade Wines.

Strips of flowering plants around rice fields in South-East Asia contribute to the effectiveness of ESPs. This removes the need for insecticide application by enhancing the efficacy of insect pests’ natural enemies (Gurr et al. 2016). Photo: Geoff Gurr.


Gurr GM, Lu Z, Zheng X, Xu H, Zhu P, Chen G, Yao X, Chen J, Zhu Z, Catindig JL, Villareal S, Chien HV, Cuong LQ, Channoo C, Chengwattana N, Lan LP, Hai LH, Chaiwong J, Nicol HI, Perovic DJ, Wratten SD, Heong KL, 2016. Multi-country evidence that crop diversification promotes ecological intensification of agriculture. Nature Plants 2, 16014.

Kremen C, 2005. Managing ecosystem services: What do we need to know about their ecology? Ecology Letters 8:468-479.

Scarratt S, Wratten S, Shishehbor P, 2008. Measuring parasitoid movement from floral resources in a vineyard. Biological Control 46:107–113.

Shields M, Tompkins J-M, Saville D, Meurk C, Wratten S, 2016. Potential ecosystem service delivery by endemic plants in New Zealand vineyards: successes and prospects. PeerJ 4: e2042.