Rivers economic benefits | BCHydro Power Smart for Schools

Identifying ecosystem goods and services

Learn more about the goods and services provided by ecosystems.

Activity Image
11, 12
20 mins


Students suggest ways in how they might benefit from a river. After examining the definitions of the different types of ecosystem goods and services (EGS), students use this information to categorize their initial ideas about the benefits of a river according to the different types of EGS.


What you'll need

  • "How do we benefit from a river?" worksheet, one copy per pair of students
  • "Identifying ecosystem goods and services" slides
  • Digital projector/display
  • Chart paper

  1. Organize your students into pairs and provide each group with a copy of the "How do we benefit from a river?" worksheet. 
  2. Show the "Identifying ecosystem goods and services" slides.
  3. At slide 2, ask groups to suggest how they might benefit from a river. For example, students might suggest that a river could provide drinking water, or that it provides transportation. Prompt groups to note their ideas on their worksheet around the river in the form of a web. 
  4. Encourage groups to share their ideas with the class. 
  5. Display slide 3 and ask your students to suggest what goods and services might be offered by the business featured in the sign. Invite students to share their ideas with the class. Consider noting student suggestions on a chart paper for use in the next step. 
  6. Show slide 4 and introduce the definitions to students. Ask groups to categorize their suggestions about the goods and services using the two definitions. 
  7. Display slide 5 and briefly explain that much like businesses, ecosystems and their parts also provide goods and services. Invite groups to suggest what ecosystem goods and services (EGS) are represented by each of the four images. For example, students might suggest:
    • Salmon: Habitats = both a good and a service. The salmon could also be viewed as food for humans, which is a good. 
    • Sprinkler: Water = good 
    • Shipping: Transportation route = good
    • Rafting: Recreation = service
  8. Move to slide 6 and briefly explain the three different types of EGS. Encourage students to note key words for each type of good and service on their worksheets. 
  9. Show slide 7 and ask groups to categorize the EGS are represented by each of the four images. For example, students might suggest:
    • Salmon: Habitats = Regulating. The salmon could also be viewed as food for humans, which is provisioning. 
    • Sprinkler = Provisioning  
    • Shipping = Provisioning
    • Rafting = Cultural
  10. Invite groups to suggest any EGS provided by a river that might be categorized as regulating. Possible responses include cleaning water, eroding land, distributing or moving minerals, and contributing to the water cycle. 
  11. Display slide 8 and guide your students’ back to the worksheet. Ask groups to add any new EGS to their web, and then to categorize each of their ideas using the three different types of EGS. 
  12. Encourage groups to share their decisions and thinking with the class. Consider showing slide 9, and inviting groups to categorize each of the EGS and services featured in the diagram. 
  13. To conclude the activity, show slide 10 and ask groups to suggest what goods and services might be provided by the ecosystem. 

Modify or extend this activity


  • While on a field trip or nature walk, ask students to categorize goods and services provided by a local ecosystem.


  • The length of this activity can be decreased by omitting Step 9.

Curriculum Fit

Environmental Science 11, 12

Big idea

  • Complex roles and relationships contribute to diversity of ecosystems (Environmental Science 11)
  • Human practices affect the sustainability of ecosystems (Environmental Science 11)
  • Human actions affect the quality of water and its ability to sustain life (Environmental Science 12)
  • Sustainable land use is essential to meet the needs of a growing population (Environmental Science 12)


  • Benefits of ecosystem services (Environmental Science 11)
  • Human actions and their impact on ecosystem integrity (Environmental Science 11)
  • Soil characteristics and ecosystem services (Environmental Science 12)

Curricular competencies

Questioning and predicting
  • Demonstrate a sustained intellectual curiosity about a scientific topic or problem of personal, local, or global interest
  • Formulate multiple hypotheses and predict multiple outcomes
Processing and analyzing data and information
  • Experience and interpret the local environment
  • Construct, analyze, and interpret graphs, models, and/or diagrams
  • Use knowledge of scientific concepts to draw conclusions that are consistent with evidence
  • Analyze cause-and-effect relationships
  • Consider social, ethical, and environmental implications of the findings from their own and others’ investigations
Applying and innovating
  • Contribute to finding solutions to problems at a local and/or global level through inquiry
  • Communicate scientific ideas and information, and perhaps a suggested course of action, for a specific purpose and audience, constructing evidence-based arguments and using appropriate scientific language, conventions, and representations
  • Express and reflect on a variety of experiences, perspectives, and worldviews through place

Teaching Notes

Ecosystem goods and services (EGS)

Statistics Canada groups ecosystem goods and services (EGS) into three general categories:

  1. Provisioning services: The goods in EGS are the material and energy.
  2. Regulating services: The capacity of ecosystems to regulate climatic, hydrological, and bio-chemical cycles, as well as biological processes.
  3. Cultural services: Generated from the physical setting and location of ecosystems, these are the emotional, intellectual, and symbolic benefits that people obtain from ecosystems through recreation, knowledge development, relaxation, and spiritual reflection. 

More information about the types of ecosystem goods and services can be found here.


Assess your students’ ability to:

  • Use scientific concepts and terminology in discussions
  • Accurately categorize ecosystem goods and services


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