In China, and elsewhere, long-term economic development and poverty alleviation need to be balanced against the likelihood of ecological failure. Here, we show how paleoenvironmental records can provide important multidecadal perspectives on ecosystem services (ES). More than 50 different paleoenvironmental proxy records can be mapped to a wide range of ES categories and subcategories. Lake sediments are particularly suitable for reconstructing records of regulating services, such as soil stability, sediment regulation, and water purification, which are often less well monitored.