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Keywords:

  • bioindicators;
  • cultural services;
  • economic value;
  • ecosystem engineering;
  • ecosystem services;
  • nutrient fluxes;
  • pest control;
  • seed dispersal;
  • waterfowl harvest;
  • zoochory

ABSTRACT

Ecosystem services are ecosystem processes that directly or indirectly benefit human well-being. There has been much recent literature identifying different services and the communities and species that provide them. This is a vital first step towards management and maintenance of these services. In this review, we specifically address the waterbirds, which play key functional roles in many aquatic ecosystems, including as predators, herbivores and vectors of seeds, invertebrates and nutrients, although these roles have often been overlooked. Waterbirds can maintain the diversity of other organisms, control pests, be effective bioindicators of ecological conditions, and act as sentinels of potential disease outbreaks. They also provide important provisioning (meat, feathers, eggs, etc.) and cultural services to both indigenous and westernized societies. We identify key gaps in the understanding of ecosystem services provided by waterbirds and areas for future research required to clarify their functional role in ecosystems and the services they provide. We consider how the economic value of these services could be calculated, giving some examples. Such valuation will provide powerful arguments for waterbird conservation.