Ecosystem services have become central to discussions about the sustainable management of natural resources. But in many regions worldwide there are critical knowledge gaps, especially with regards the dynamics of services that support and regulate ecosystems. Here we review the role of paleoenvironmental sequences to provide multi-decadal information for ecosystem services, exemplified by a case study from the lower Yangtze basin. The Chinese study shows rapid losses of regulating services especially since the 1980s mirroring the rise in population and economic growth. The findings imply that land management practices are critically unsustainable.
Dearing, J.A.; Yang XiangDong; Dong XuHui; Zhang EnLou; Xu Chen; Langdon, P.G.; Ke Zhang; Zhang WeiGuo; Dawson, T.P. Extending the timescale and range of ecosystem services through paleoenvironmental analyses, exemplified in the lower Yangtze basin. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2012) 109 (18) E1111-E1120.