solid and toxic wastes, deforestation, watershed destruction, loss of biodiversity, and climate change. As a result, environmental research has increasingly focused on the health of the environment, the value of ecosystems services, and the ability of the biosphere to provide—on a sustainable basis—the goods and services demanded by the needs and aspirations of an increasing human population. In many ways, the situation we face at the National Biological Service with respect to natural resource issues is analogous to the one faced in the pollution and human health arena. Initially, we rallied public support in support of saving bald eagles, gray whales, and the like. We focused on individual species and on case-by-case responses. Now, we recognize that fungi and mussels and issues such as habitat fragmentation are at least as important, if not more critical.
The nation's biological resources are the basis for much of our current prosperity and social well-being, essential parts of the wealth that we will pass on to future generations. Our very existence is dependent on the plant and animal products that provide us food, fuel, fiber, shelter, and pharmaceuticals. In addition to these biological products that enter our market economy, we depend on healthy ecological systems for critical services such as clean air, clean water, and fertile soil. Recently, Tim Worth, Undersecretary of State for the Environment, has asserted "that the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment." Since biological resources and ecological systems are an essential part of our nation's wealth, like other forms of wealth, they should be managed wisely. Human population growth and the pursuit of an improved quality of life have produced unintended threats to the health of biological resources and the integrity of the ecological systems.
Increasingly, the private sector will determine the boundaries in which the individuals and households make environmental decisions. Ecosystem health and integrity are concepts that are widely used when talking about biological resources and environmental quality. Yet they are still without precise scientific definition. Healthy ecological systems provide goods in the form of food, raw materials, sources of energy, medicinal plants, and genetic resources among others. They also provide services, such as maintaining hydrological cycles, cleansing water and air, pollinating crops and other important plants, storing and cycling essential nutrients, providing sites for tourism and recreation, regulating climate, maintaining the composition of the atmosphere, generating and maintaining soils and reefs, naturally controlling disease vectors, and absorbing detoxifying pollutants. And I could go on. This growing awareness of the inescapable interdependence of human health and welfare and the integrity of ecological systems has led to a recognition of the need for strengthening the research on and monitoring of the nation's biological resources and the ecological systems for which they are imbedded. The extent to which biological resources and ecological systems are sustained will, in fact, determine the variety of socially and economically viable management options that can be retained for the future.
Let me turn to the National Biological Service. Why was NBS created? The