Key criteria for developing ecosystem service indicators to inform decision making

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenKommentare / Debatten / BerichteForschung


  • Alexander P.E. van Oudenhoven
  • Matthias Schröter
  • Evangelia G. Drakou
  • Ilse R. Geijzendorffer
  • Sander Jacobs
  • Peter M. van Bodegom
  • Laurent Chazee
  • Bálint Czúcz
  • Karsten Grunewald
  • Ana I. Lillebø
  • Laura Mononen
  • António J.A. Nogueira
  • Manuel Pacheco-Romero
  • Christian Perennou
  • Roy P. Remme
  • Silvia Rova
  • Ralf Uwe Syrbe
  • Jamie A. Tratalos
  • María Vallejos
  • Christian Albert

Decision makers are increasingly interested in information from ecosystem services (ES) assessments. Scientists have for long recognised the importance of selecting appropriate indicators. Yet, while the amount and variety of indicators developed by scientists seems to increase continuously, the extent to which the indicators truly inform decision makers is often unknown and questioned. In this viewpoint paper, we reflect and provide guidance on how to develop appropriate ES indicators for informing decision making, building on scientific literature and practical experience collected from researchers involved in seven case studies. We synthesized 16 criteria for ES indicator selection and organized them according to the widely used categories of credibility, salience, legitimacy (CSL). We propose to consider additional criteria related to feasibility (F), as CSL criteria alone often seem to produce indicators which are unachievable in practice. Considering CSLF together requires a combination of scientific knowledge, communication skills, policy and governance insights and on-field experience. In conclusion, we present a checklist to evaluate CSLF of your ES indicators. This checklist helps to detect and mitigate critical shortcomings in an early phase of the development process, and aids the development of effective indicators to inform actual policy decisions.

ZeitschriftEcological Indicators
Seiten (von - bis)417-426
Anzahl der Seiten10
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 01.12.2018
Extern publiziertJa

Bibliographische Notiz

The work by AvO is funded by the STW research programme ‘Nature-driven nourishment of coastal systems (NatureCoast)’ (grant number 12691), which is (partly) financed by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). The work of IG, LC and CP was supported by grants from the MAVA Foundation, the Total Foundation, the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation and the French Ministry of Ecology. The work by CA, RS and KG for MAES Germany was commissioned by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (Environment Ministry, BMUB) and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN). Niraj-MAES was supported by the EEA Financial Mechanism and the Romanian Ministry of Environment, Forests and Waters under the project “Mapping and assessment of ecosystem services in Natura 2000 sites of the Niraj-Tarnava Mica region” (Programme RO02, grant No. 3458/19.05.2015). The work by AL and AN was supported through the AQUACROSS project funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration under Grant Agreement no. 642317. Thanks are also due, for the financial support to CESAM (UID/AMB/50017/2013), to FCT/MEC through national funds, and the co-funding by the FEDER, within the PT2020 Partnership Agreement and Compete 2020. The work of LM was supported by MAES Finland project that is funded by the Ministry of the Environment, Finland. The work of MP-R was financed by the Spanish Ministry of Education through a University Teacher Training grant. The work by JT was carried out at the University of Nottingham and funded under the National Ecosystem Assessment Follow-on (NEAFO) programme. CA acknowledges additional support from the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) through the Junior Research Group PlanSmart (funding code: 01UU1601A).