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Ecosystems provide a rich source of inspiration for art, folklore, national symbols, architecture and personal or group motivation.


Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Service Category

Cultural Services


What is inspiration and how is it derived?

Community arts inspired by nature at the Scenic Rim.

Poets reflect on aspects of the environment.

"I feel it with my body, with my blood. Feeling all these trees, all this country. When this wind blow you can feel it. Same for country … you feel it. You can look, but feeling … that make you. Feeling make you, out there in open space. He coming through your body, look while he blow and feel with your body...because tree just about your brother or father...and tree is watching you. your father or brother or mother, because you born from earth. You got to come back to earth. When you'll come back to earth. Maybe little while yet...then you'll come to earth. That's your bone, your blood. It's in this earth, same as for tree" (Bill Neidjie 1985).

Humans have been inspired, guided, grounded and defined by nature for millenia. We are still able to see this most profound of relationships in the ancient rock art and cave paintings around the world, and in the art and words of ancient and surviving cultures such as the Australian Aborigines. The Bill Neidjie poem above is one such example.  

To priest and author Matthew Fox, the mystery, inspiration and creativity of humanity is grounded in direct experience with nature. And the nearest expression of experience he believes, is images not words. Fox says, "we give birth to images out of our experience then the poets come along and redeem language for us. That's the process". "Grace is about gift. Grace is unconditional love ... it's a blessing ... it's what we feel in communion with nature and I think it's grace that gives rise to inspiration. Grace gives rise to gratitude and our gratitude is our expression of inspiration to nature ...". And so the gifts from nature through its inspiration to humanity include art, poetry, literature, music, stories, crafts and even architecture - the very creative processes and artefacts that give human beings and our communities and settlements meaning, beauty, longevity, purpose and indeed, soul.

Table 1 below presents the magnitude different ecosystem functions have the potential to contribute to providing this ecosystem service (relative to other ecosystem functions). Inspiration is an ecosystem service that is derived from the functioning of an ecosystem as a whole, or of a specific component of an ecosystem. For example, whilst looking at a landscape an artist may be inspired to paint the whole landscape or only a single tree, the water, the clouds or other raw materials. However, aspects of the ecosystem that influence the perception of the ecosystem by people, or that influence how people can use the ecosystem, are likely to have greater importance in the provision of the service (e.g. supporting habitats are often recognised as having high amounts of biodiversity). Landscape opportunity has been highlighted as the most important function required for the provision of this service. This recognises that the extent and variety of natural features and landscapes are important to the provision of inspiration. In short, all of these ecosystem functions are important to inspiration in that it is nature - and wherever possible, intact and healthy nature that supports inspiration.     


Table 1:The relative magnitude (to other ecosystem functions) each ecosystem function contributes to Inspiration.

Ecosystem Function Category Ecosystem Function 0
Regulating Functions
Gas Regulation

Climate Regulation

Disturbance Regulation

Water Regulation

Soil Retention

Nutrient Regulation

Waste Treatment and Assimilation


Biological Control

Barrier Effect of Vegetation

Supporting Functions
Supporting Habitats

Soil Formation

Provisioning Functions

Raw Materials

Water Supply

Genetic Resources

Provision of Shade and Shelter

Pharmacological Resources

Cultural Functions
Landscape Opportunity



May Gibbs' iconic book 'The Adventures of Snuggle Pot and Cuddle Pie' has been entertaining children for decades with stories inspired by the Australian 'bush' such as gumnuts and banskia.

Aspects of ecosystems or ecosystems in their whole state provide wonder and therefore great potential for people to be inspired. However access to nature is fundamentally important for the service inspiration to be received, although limited inspiration may be received through viewing others pictures or photos of attractive areas. Areas for inspiration may be remote such as forested wilderness which usually requires some form of transport to the forest and then walking tracks or off-track experience. However, even in cities and urban areas contact with nature can be as close as safe, attractive local parks and reserves, creeks and rivers. Inspiration therefore does not always depend on remote intact ecosystems, but can be found in urban areas through the provision and maintenance of beautiful and safe reserves and parks.


Are there any barriers to people receiving this ecosystem service and its benefits?

Mobility to reach both remote and urban areas of nature may be a challenge. Issues around public safety in spaces of natural beauty, particularly in cities and high density suburban areas may be an issue especially at night. Access to night skies may indeed be quite a challenge in cities and suburbs because of high density lighting throughout these areas. Degradation of natural environments and lack of open space is certainly a barrier to receiving this service. Otherwise, imagination itself is a barrier to receiving this service. This ecosystem service provides many benefits that contribute both directly and indirectly to the well-being of the SEQ community. The Constituents of Well-being this ecosystem service contributes to are presented in Table 2 below. Further information on these constituents and how ecosystem services contribute to them can be obtained by clicking on the links in the table.


Table 2:The relative magnitude (to other ecosystem services) Inspiration contributes to each constituent of well-being.

Well-being Category Constituent of Well-being 0
Physical Health            
Mental Health            
Secure and Continuous Supply of Services            
Security of Person            
Security of Health            
Secure Access to Services            
Security of Property            
Good Social Relations
Family Cohesion            
Community and Social Cohesion            
Freedom of Choice and Action
Social and Economic Freedom            
Self Actualisation            




The Australian Coat of Arms was inspired by native species.

Links to other publications and websites

Cultural Ecosystem Services
Arts Queensland
McKay - Literary Representations

Engagement with community arts and cultural practitioners, community artists and schools may indicate the strengths of creative and cultural activities within our communities. The presence and levels of activity of local artists, writers, galleries, community arts projects, community arts festivals etc may also indicate the health or otherwise of this service. In addition, the levels of provision of community and creative grants to support creative activity (and indeed the level of take-up) may also be a useful indicator. The access and safety of natural areas for people to access and experience different ecosystems and processes (day and night) is an important indicator.


How is this ecosystem service currently managed in SEQ?

Community arts and cultural development policymakers and practitioners, particularly at a local government level are important points of contact for further information. Again at a local government level, are the parks and recreation staff who identify, acquire, maintain and monitor natural areas within a community and are therefore important players. At state and federal government level in the areas of arts and cultural development are the policymakers and institutions such as Arts Queensland. See also Aesthetic Values for details about landscape planners and urban designers role in maintaining scenic amenity.