Outcomes of this stage
- Identify ecosystem services and related benefits for people
- Link the services to ecosystem structures and processes
What are ecosystem services?
All human beings depend on ecosystems for their economic and social well-being. These contributions that people derive from ecosystems are called ecosystem services. They are usually classified as provisioning services (e.g. food and drinking water), regulating services (e.g. carbon sequestration, water purification) and cultural services (e.g. recreation and aesthetic experiences).
Various definitions of ecosystem services
The Common International Classification of Ecosystem Services (CICES) provides a standard typology of ecosystem services. The CICES categories are also used in Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services (MAES) and they are translatable to the ones used in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) and the United Nations study on The Economics of Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity (TEEB). For valuation purposes, it is important to distinguish between intermediate and final ecosystem services to avoid double counting. The latter are ecosystem services such as nutrient retention which give rise to final ecosystem services such as drinking water.
Identifying ecosystem services
A particularly helpful way to identify ecosystem services is to start with the beneficiaries and ask whether changes in biophysical outcomes enhance the well-being of certain societal groups, or whether they weaken some people’s material, social, or psychical well-being.
The cascade model is a useful tool for identifying final ecosystem services and their linkages to underlying ecosystem structures and processes in concrete management and policy making situations.